I wish to clarify assumptions in Tony Payne’s June 20 Maine Sunday Telegram column (“Property rights issue swamps water debate”) regarding interrelated ground and surface water hydraulic systems, the public interest in these interrelated systems, and the right and need of the people of Maine as a public to derive critically needed revenue from this public good as one of our principal natural resource assets.

I write from a lifelong career in water resource policy and as past president of the Maine Congress of Lake Associations.

Surface and ground water are highly interdependent and interrelated as one system.

They are inseparable, as our spring-fed lakes, streams and wetlands attest. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that, on the average, one-third of stream flow comes from ground water recharge.

Water resources constitute an essential public good. They cannot be handled piecemeal. What one person does to or takes from water, both surface and ground, affects others.

This invokes the Public Trust Doctrine. Withdrawing water, as does polluting water, impacts neighboring property rights — in fact all property owners and all citizens.

Over the years, many states have applied the Public Trust Doctrine to ground water in addition to surface water, including Massachusetts (its landmark Water Management Act), New Hampshire and Vermont.

As a public good, we the public have an interest in charging, or taxing, large-scale withdrawal of ground water as a public natural resource, just as the public derives substantial revenues from oil extraction. Water is Maine’s oil! Maine is revenue-starved. Our abundant natural resource is water, and we the people of Maine should be benefiting and profiting from this resource asset.

Furthermore, Maine must put in place up front the legal framework to protect this public right for the benefit of all citizens and, above all, to avert pre-emption under international trade agreements, as California, for example, has effectively done.

Bart Hague

In his July 18 Maine Voices column, Robert Marvinney, Maine state geologist, justified Nestle’s annual extraction of 700 million gallons of Maine water.

Since there is a southern Maine water district that withdraws more, according to Marvinney, Nestle’s water grab is negligible in comparison.

No distinction was made between displacement — water taken out of state and the recharge cycle — and water used locally.

Marvinney states that all withdrawals must have a state permit and “all permits” have withdrawal limits that can be adjusted downward as “our annual climate demands.”

He doesn’t say that limits must be adjusted downward, only that they can be. Is that a typo?

He also dismisses concerns that doing business with foreign corporations like Switzerland-based Nestle triggers international trade agreements that can negate Maine’s state permitting regulations and local environmental and safety ordinances if Nestle proves they are a barrier to international trade and commerce.

The fact that Marvinney (employed by Maine taxpayers) weighed in on the discussion at all is disturbing. Doesn’t his job mandate staying strictly neutral?

And doesn’t the fact that he came in on the side of Nestle constitute a conflict of interest?

In her July 29 letter to the editor, Louise Haggett of Freeport linked Marvinney’s column with the $10 million bond referendum that Maine voters approved to improve water quality, support drinking-water programs and construct wastewater treatment facilities.

Good point. Why do we allow Nestle to bottle millions of gallons of Maine water to sell for billions, while we taxpayers have to pony up $10 million to improve water quality and shore up infrastructure?

How about a pennies-per-gallon subsidy on the water Nestle appropriates for huge profit? How about a small payback for the blue gold that glimmers on Nestle’s bottom line? It’s our water.

Linda Dumey

New freshmen need facts about binge drinking 

As August arrives, many parents and high school graduates turn their excited attention to the school year at colleges and universities.

With enthusiasm, families shop for dorm bedding, order textbooks online and print out maps and schedules.

Students are anxious, trying to guess what their college experience will bring.

As your family gets ready for this life transition, it is important to make sure that your child is prepared.

Along with the other items on your son’s or daughter’s “to do” list, I suggest you add an honest and genuine conversation about drinking on college campuses.

Students work diligently during those first few weeks, trying to find their new support system while balancing class schedules and personal obligations.

It is very easy for young adults to make hasty decisions during this confusing time. August is an excellent month to have a basic conversation about your family’s expectations involving drinking and other life choices on college campuses.

Help your child understand that they need to stay alert and be able to observe their surroundings in order to make smart decisions.

The key to life is moderation, though it may be an unpopular choice on some campuses. Steer clear of exaggerated scare tactics — they may do more harm than good.

A conversation that emphasizes concern and compassion will help your son or daughter voice their own concerns about this life change.

Listen to your child and try to help find resources to answer his or her questions. Many campuses have alcohol education programs that can help you and your child understand what types of risks are present at your university of choice.

That way you and your family can have the happiest and healthiest school season.

Kelly M. O’Brien
Old Town 

Some facts lacking in historical home profile 

I was pleased to see my hometown of Gardiner featured in the Exploring Maine section of the July 25 Maine Sunday Telegram. I only wish that Lloyd Ferriss had done some more research.

Edwin Arlington Robinson did indeed live in Gardiner, but never in Yellow House. When he was 6 months old he moved to Lincoln Avenue to a home remodeled in the Italianate style by his father in 1870.

He lived there until 1897. Yellow House was occupied by another Pulitzer Prize winner, Laura E. Richards. She wrote many novels, one being “Captain January,” that was later made into a movie. She was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Howe, founder of the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, and Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The Richards family and their six children lived at Yellow House for many years.

Please, if you’re going to report, report correctly.

Sally Johnson

Motorcycle noise crackdown brings cheers  

I read with interest the column by Bill Nemitz about the courageous action taken by Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey (“At last, response to noise is no longer muffled,” Aug. 1).

Chief Massey, thank you. Altered or unmuffled motorcycle exhausts represent an affront to the general public and have for many years.

I can think of no other law that is so widely flouted and so unenforced as the prohibition on modified and excessively loud motorcycle exhaust.

I commend Chief Massey for taking this stand and hope his example will encourage other police departments to do the same, including and especially Portland.

Stephen Gaal


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