Portland to seek input on water protection

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PORTLAND — With water coursing throughout the city and its history, municipal officials are looking to improve ways to protect it.

At 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9, the Department of Public Works Water Resources Division will host its first public information meeting on developing an integrated management plan encompassing stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, the working waterfront, public access to water and protecting water quality.

The meeting will be held at the DPW offices at 250 Canco Road.

The primary goal of the plan is to ensure the most effective and efficient use of public funds to protect water. The city hosted two stakeholder meetings in the fall, and presentations and other materials can be viewed at www.blueportland.org.

“Integrated Planning is the best way I know to be exceptional stewards of the money the City entrusts to us,” Water Resources Manager Nancy Gallinaro said in a press release.

The meeting will begin with a 40-minute presentation, followed by public comment that includes a question and answer session. The expectation is to have an adaptive framework for the plan in place by the end of the year.

Stakeholders met in October for an introduction to integrated management and a plan that “allows the City to focus less on isolated regulatory deadlines driven by multiple permits, and more on creating and preserving the value residents feel is represented by their water resources,” according to a meeting summary.

The integrated planning approach comes as the city also remains under a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Maine Department of Environmental Protection to reduce the overflow of wastewater into Casco Bay from the Portland Water District treatment plant near East End Beach.

Full compliance with the agreement may not come for another decade and could cost as much as $175 million for projects that separate stormwater and wastewater flow.

With the sewer separation projects, the city has worked to reduce stormwater flow by capturing the first inch of rainfall and absorbing it at sites.

To help fund the work, the city began assessing a stormwater service fee on all property owners three years ago. The monthly $6.30 per 1,200 square feet of impervious surface fee ensures those not using sewer services still pay some of the compliance costs.

As the management plan forms, city officials are looking for input on prioritizing work, and need greater detail on water quality that includes nitrogen flows from waterways into Casco Bay.

The city has five “urban impaired” waterways, considered so by the DEP “if it fails to meet water-quality standards because of effects of stormwater runoff from developed land.”

In 2016, the city spent $1.46 million for the dredging of Capisic Pond in the Rosemont area, work that also included removing invasive plants like cattails to restore open water.

The new integrated management plan will also consider the effects of climate change in terms of elevated sea levels, flooding and storm surges, including damage from storms and the cost of protection and adaptation measures.

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Contractors fill an excavation site at Deerfield and Belmeade roads Dec. 27 as part of ongoing sewer separation work in Portland. The city is developing a management plan to better coordinate such projects in the future.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.