South Portland gets $35K grant to plan Trout Brook restoration

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday accepted two state planning grants to advance environmental initiatives.

The city received a $35,500 from the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a management and restoration plan for Trout Brook and parts of Kimball Brook. 

Another $10,000 grant was awarded to develop a handbook for developers about the city’s new storm-water regulations.

City Manager Jim Gailey said the effort to restore Trout Brook, which still has a naturally occurring trout population, is similar to regional efforts to clean up Long Creek.

City storm-water manager Fred Dillon said the grant will be used to hire a consultant to help develop a plan for reducing non-point pollution in the watershed, as well as to fund water quality tests.

Dillon said the process will take about 18 months to complete after the funding is received from the state.

The grant requires a local match: more than $23,800 of in-kind services and about $2,100 cash.

Since more than an acre of the more than 2.5 square-mile Trout Brook watershed is in Cape Elizabeth, Dillon said the town has agreed to contribute to the local match requirement.

Councilor Patti Smith, who lives near Trout Brook, said she was happy the city was moving forward with efforts to restore the threatened watershed, which has unique animal and plant life.

“It’s not Long Creek, but it’s certainly an oasis for the natural world,” Smith said.

Councilor Tom Blake said Trout Brook is the only watershed that is still living in the city, and “it won’t stay alive if we don’t develop a plan.”

The city also accepted a $10,000 grant from the State Planning Office to develop a Coastal Communities Storm-Water Management Manual.

It’s the second grant the city has received for the project, which will become a template for other coastal communities. Last year, the city received $23,000 to begin the project.

Councilor Maxine Beecher, who served on a committee that updated and strengthened the city’s storm-water rules, said the project will give developers clarity about the city’s new rules and regulations.

“This will be a very useful tool,” Beecher said. “It’s a useful thing about for builders, for planners, for everyone.”

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

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Apprehension over smart meters spreads to South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — A handful of residents on Monday night asked the City Council to enact a moratorium on installation of so-called “smart” electric meters by Central Maine Power Co.

CMP began installing the devices last month. They allow the company to collect electricity usage by residents without sending a person to each home to read the meters, which saves the company money.

Instead, energy usage is transmitted via a non-ionized radio wave frequency, similar to a cell phone or wireless router. The information is sent up to six times per hour.

While CMP and State Public Health Director Dora Mills have said the meters are safe and secure, some residents in Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland fear the radiation from new system will have unintended health consequences and that the wireless system will increase the likelihood of identify theft.

The Scarborough Town Council last month passed a resolution asking CMP to refrain from installing the meters until the public can be educated and have the ability to opt out of the program.

The Cape Elizabeth Town Council is planning to discuss a similar resolution on Monday night.

South Portland residents are asking the city to go a step further and enact a 90-day moratorium.

Mayor Tom Coward told the residents that the city cannot regulate CMP and they should take their concerns to the Public Utilities Commission, which has received two formal complaints from Scarborough residents.

City Manager Jim Gailey said that as of last week CMP has already installed 6,000 of the 13,000 meters in South Portland.

More than 15,000 meters have been installed in greater Portland, with the goal of installing new meters for all of the company’s 620,000 customers by 2012.

The conversion project, funded by $96 million in federal stimulus money, is expected to reduce CMP’s labor costs, and allow residents to monitor their energy consumption in real time and make informed decisions about when and how they use electricity.

— Randy Billings

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