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EPA Awards $700,000 For Maine Watershed Program on Meduxnekeag River

Release Date: 05/02/2003
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a $700,000 grant for projects in the Meduxnekeag watershed in Eastern Maine. The grant will be used by the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, working with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Town of Houlton, and the Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District, to improve water quality in the Meduxnekeag watershed, a tributary of the St. John River. The grant is among nearly $15 million of grants awarded today to 20 watershed organizations across the country as part of the agency’s new Watershed Initiative, and is one of three awarded in New England.

Today’s announcement comes one year after President Bush, in his State of the Union Address, asked the nation’s governors and tribal leaders to submit proposals to support community-based approaches to clean up the nation’s watersheds. This year Congress appropriated $15 million of the President’s original $20 million request.

“This national competition for these Watershed Initiative grants generated a torrent of outstanding proposals,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, who announced the winners today in New Jersey. “EPA is very excited to commit significant federal dollars to support these top watershed efforts, all of which will serve as national models for other communities to follow.”

Selected from among more than 176 nominations, the Houlton Band will use the funds for two major projects in the watershed. The first project will reduce soil erosion and improve water quality by providing information and funding for farmers in the watershed to adopt crop rotation practices. This involves planting a combination of spring varieties of small grain winter cover crops on potato fields harvested earlier in the season and mulching fields harvested later in the season. Improving soil quality also improves crop yields which will offer farmers an added benefit by implementing these practices. The second project will search for and correct sewer connections in the Town of Houlton that may be leaking raw sewage into the river.

“The Meduxnekeag project has clear goals, a focused approach, and the strong promise of real environmental benefits over the next two years,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office. “EPA is proud to be able to fund this work and join the strong partnership to make a cleaner river for the Maliseets and everyone in the region.”

“The Meduxnekeag is very important to the tribe and to the community,” said Tony Tomah, natural resources director for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. “This grant is going to help us and our partners make real improvements that will benefit the whole watershed.”

“The waterways of Maine are among our most important resources,” said Maine Governor John Baldacci. “I'm very pleased that, thanks to this grant, we'll be able to enhance the Meduxnekeag. This project should provide benefits in near future and for generations to come.”