LD 923 – An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Upgrade Municipal Culverts at Stream Crossings

AUGUSTA – Speaker of the House Sara Gideon (D-Freeport) introduced LD 923, legislation that would make critical habitat and safety improvements. This $5,000,000 bond would allow for an upgrade of municipal culverts at stream crossings in order to enhance and restore rivers, streams and fish and wildlife habitats and to allow communities to better prepare for extreme storms and floods. Environmental, construction and outdoor sports advocates support the initiative.

“Culverts are perhaps the least visible elements of infrastructure we use every day, but roads collapse when they fail,” said Speaker Gideon. “I’m proud to support this common sense measure that protects our clean water, invests in our infrastructure and is good for economy and our environment.”

The vast majority of road stream crossings in Maine were designed to meet standards a half century out of date. In 2014, Maine dedicated funds to offer grants for towns and municipalities to improve culverts. In the first round of applications, Maine funded 72 applications, but 132 remained on the waiting list leading to more than $6.8 million in requests the following year. The interest continues to build and with that the need to keep making improvements with the successful program.

The funds will be administered by the Department of Environmental Protection and be used for a competitive program that matches local funding. Eligible project sponsors include local governments, municipal conservation commissions, soil and water conservation districts and private nonprofit organizations.

“This program uses criteria to fund the most needed projects first and address areas where culvert failure are a higher risk. For contractors, it provides good jobs and the chance for smaller firms to compete for local work,” said Matt Marks of The Associated General Contractors of Maine. “The cost of replacing a washed-out culvert, and the associated facilities are much larger than an engineered solution in advance of a heavy rain event, and that makes this a good investment for Maine”

A public hearing on LD 923 will be held in the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee in the coming weeks.