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EPA Honors Town of Portage Lake, Maine for Clean Water Actions

Release Date: 04/01/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008 Rita Sinclair, Town Manager of Portage Lake (207-435-4361)

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today honored the Town of Portage Lake, Maine for its work in reducing pollution entering Portage Lake. The town, one of 79 selected nationally as a ‘Clean Water Partner for the 21st Century,' was honored at a ceremony this morning in Washington by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

EPA's Office of Water created the Clean Water Partners Awards as part of the celebration of the Year of Clean Water. The awards are designed to recognize extraordinary actions taken by local governments to protect watersheds over and above the requirements of the Clean Water Act, focusing on the leadership role that local governments are playing in their own organizations and their efforts to mobilize other partners in the watershed. Honorees were reviewed by a panel including EPA, the Water Environment Federation, Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies and the National League of Cities.

"We received about 200 applications from across the U. S. and after careful review 79 were chosen as Clean Water Partners," said G. Tracy Mehan III, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, who joined Whitman's at today's ceremony. "It is our belief that clean water begins at the local level. We applaud the efforts of all Clean Water Partners to improve the environment in the communities they serve."

"Portage Lake's vision and leadership has made a huge difference in protecting this hugely important water resource," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "The town has shown first-hand that partnerships between the government, and the people they represent, can yield enormous benefits. The town deserves recognition for its outstanding work."

Portage Lake sits in Maine's northernmost county and has a population of 390 people (approximately 800 in the summer). The 2,471-acre lake is the centerpiece of the community both as a natural and economic resource. Alarmed by the lake's deteriorating water quality, Portage Lake residents in 1998 contacted the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's regional office. Together, a partnership was formed between the town, Portage Lake Association, Fish River Lakes Association, St. John Valley RC&D, Maine DEP and the Maine Volunteer Leader Program.

A Steering Committee was subsequently formed and one of its first actions was a watershed survey which identified the town-owned beach and recreation area as a pollution source. A large gravel parking lot that sloped toward the lake and an exposed shoreline were the primary concerns. To address these problems, the town used volunteers to create a vegetated shoreline buffer that extended more than 700 feet.

The town is also working with state and regional offices, as well as local businesses, to implement best management practices for roads and driveways to reduce runoff pollution to the lake. The town is also working with Maine DEP's Small Community Grant Program to address failing septic system issues.

Most recently, the town hired a new code enforcement officer to help landowners comply with the town's Shoreland Zoning Ordinance that protects the lake. And the town Planning Board is working on a new town-wide ordinance, which will address development issues not just on the shoreline, but the entire watershed.

Subsequent water quality monitoring by the Maine Lakes Volunteer Monitoring Program have shown improvement in the lake's overall water quality.

Other award winners in New England were the Norwalk River Watershed Initiative in Norwalk, CT, the Town of Narragansett, R.I. and the Auburn Water District in Auburn. MA.