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Portland City Council highlights water needs

Water ways
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  August 20, 2008

“Our water infrastructure was basically built before the Civil War,” says city councilor Dave Marshall, who will speak at this Wednesday’s farmers’ market in Monument Square about the importance of creating a national water trust fund. Such a fund would allow municipalities like Portland to update local pipelines, sewers, and stormwater systems.

At Monday evening’s city council meeting, Marshall proposed a resolution encouraging US Representative Tom Allen to support federal legislation that would finance a Clean Water Trust Fund with existing tax dollars — providing at least $10 billion a year for maintenance and upgrading of wastewater and sewer-pollution-mitigation systems. “It’s key in order to have safe water,” Marshall says, and we need far more than a recently approved state bond affords.

Earlier this year, President George W. Bush proposed cutting the already existing (and emaciated) Clean Water State Revolving Fund, established in the 1980s to provide loans to states for clean-water projects. (Does Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, get its water from a pristine, private waterfall?) The CWSRF, which became fully operational in 1991 and is funded through a combination of state and federal-matching dollars, has slowly shriveled over the past decade. In February, three Democratic US representatives from Minnesota, Texas, and Oregon called on the Government Accountability Office to study and suggest funding mechanisms for a reliable Clean Water Trust Fund like those that exist for highways and aviation; that report will be complete by January 2009. In the meantime, the House and Senate have introduced bills aimed at closing the funding gap of $300-500 billion over the next 20 years.

According to Food and Water Watch, an activist organization based in Washington, DC, federal contributions to Maine’s clean water funding efforts have decreased by 48 percent since the early 1990s. While the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that Maine needs $1.1 billion for wastewater fix-ups, the state received just $8.3 million for these types of projects in 2007.

Marshall is also looking to go through administrative channels to get the city to “lead by example” and stop buying bottled water. Of course, these two efforts are inextricably linked — it's hard to encourage people to drink tap water if the pipes that provide it are ancient and crumbling.

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  Topics: This Just In , U.S. Government, U.S. Congressional News, Politics,  More more >
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 See all articles by: DEIRDRE FULTON

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