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Portland, South Portland sign onto Long Creek management district

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Portland, South Portland sign onto Long Creek management district

SOUTH PORTLAND — Three of the four communities charged with cleaning up the Long Creek watershed in South Portland approved an interlocal agreement Monday night to create a legally binding watershed management district.

Legislative bodies in Portland, South Portland and Westbrook voted unanimously to establish the Long Creek Watershed Management District. The fourth community, Scarborough, is scheduled to vote on the agreement at its Aug. 19 meeting.

If approved by Scarborough, each community will appoint a certain number of members to a Board of Directors of up to 16 members to oversee and implement the Long Creek Restoration Plan, which seeks to upgrade old storm-water systems to clean runoff before it enters Long Creek.

South Portland, which is leading the clean-up effort, has the greatest influence on the panel, since the vast majority of the 3.5-square-mile watershed is located there. That city will appoint seven members to the board: two municipal officials or employees, four watershed landowners and a representative from a nonprofit with interests in the watershed.

Portland, and Scarborough if it signs on to the agreement, would each appoint two officials and Westbrook would appoint three.

South Portland City Attorney Sally Daggett said a provision has been added to allow the Maine Turnpike Authority and the Department of Transportation to each appoint a board member.

Establishing the district will not cost the municipalities any money. However, municipalities that own land within the watershed will either have to address their storm-water issues individually or contribute clean-up costs on a district-wide basis through a general permit to be determined by the Department of Environmental Protection, which is considered a low-cost option.

So far, the group's effort to work collaboratively with private and public landowners has been lauded as a national model by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which recognized the group at an awards ceremony this year in Boston. 

The DOT is currently working on laying the state's first stretch of porous pavement on a major road to address polluted storm-water runoff on Maine Mall Road. Efforts are also underway to restore the buffer of Jackson Creek, which runs between the Maine Mall and the Turnpike Spur. 

South Portland Mayor Tom Blake said he hopes the clean up efforts will usher in a return of the fishing derbies he remembers as a child in the 1960s. 

"I always get a hoot out of watching people out there," Blake said. "They don't catch anything, but it will turn around."

He added, "This is a model for America and I think it's going to work." 

Maine Mall street lights

The City Council tabled action on a $270,000 proposal to reconfigure street lights on Maine Mall Road and Gorham Road. 

Funding for the project was approved as part of the 2006 capital improvement budget, but current councilors decided to hold a workshop to re-evaluate the proposal. 

Although Councilor Jim Soule sought to delay action because of the cost, Blake said the city should ask the contractor about incorporating timers into the lights so they can be shut off in the overnight hours when the shops are closed. 

City Manager Jim Gailey said the current plan would remove the 42 existing street lights and install 39 new fixtures on the mall side of Maine Mall Road from the Payne Road Bridge and along Gorham Road to Philbrook Avenue.

Prior to several state construction projects, Gailey said there were as many as 45 street lights along that stretch.

Councilor Patti Smith said the council needs to make sure it is being consistent when it comes to its street light policy, noting that efforts are currently underway to remove more than 100 street lights in residential districts.

In other business, the council approved nearly $133,000 in new Dell computers for the School Department. The purchase includes 108 laptops, 35 desktops and 115 monitors.   

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net