For more than a year, the Acadia region has been awaiting a congressional fix for a series of territorial and jurisdictional problems in and around New England’s only national park. Now the process appears to be moving forward.

Maine’s four-member congressional delegation submitted identical, revised versions of a bill in the Senate and House on Thursday to resolve rules about how and where the park can expand, whether clammers and wormers can work tidal flats next to park land, and whether the park should subsidize local trash collection.

Also Thursday, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the Republican representing Maine’s 2nd district, announced that the House Natural Resources Committee has finally scheduled a hearing on the bill for Nov. 15, the next step for the legislation to advance on Capitol Hill, where it had been stalled for months. Poliquin had written to the heads of that committee on Sept. 25 demanding prompt action on the bill.

“This bipartisan and bicameral legislation is a comprehensive solution in resolving boundary and traditional harvesting issues at Acadia, and I am extremely pleased the Natural Resources Committee has answered my request for a hearing and to move this bill forward in Congress,” Poliquin said in a prepared statement. “This comprehensive legislation has received input from all stakeholders and I am pleased to work with the entire Congressional delegation on this.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who represents the 1st District, thanked Poliquin for his leadership on the issue and said she is pleased that a hearing has been scheduled “so that we can soon reach a resolution that supports the needs of residents and those who make their living harvesting on the flats near the park.”

Like previous versions introduced last year, the revised bill would make legal the park’s acquisition of the 1,441-acre Schoodic Woods parcel – a coastal woodland with a campground and bike trails anonymously donated in 2015, but controversially acquired by the park without respect to a boundary line established by Congress in 1986 for future park expansions, the result of negotiations between the park and local residents.

The bill also would direct the park to permit “traditional” harvesting by clammers, wormers and periwinkle gatherers within the park in accordance with state law and local ordinances, language that appears to exclude seaweed harvesting, aquaculture pens and other uses that have not taken place in the area to date. Under Maine law, a coastal property owner owns the intertidal zone, but marine harvesting can be done there.

It also retains a provision that would direct the park to give $350,000 to a consortium of Mount Desert Island town governments to subsidize trash disposal – a move that park proponents have said would cripple the park’s next budget.

The bill does include provisions allowing the park to make minor property swaps and corrections to deal with routine surveying problems, a measure widely supported by both the park and its neighbors.

“This bill responds to community concerns and seeks to find commonsense solutions to ensure the National Park Service remains a good neighbor to the surrounding communities,” Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins said in a joint statement.

Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

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