Gideon is the lead co-sponsor of Governor Mills’ Bill, LD 1775,  “An Act to Protect Sustenance Fishing,” is Governor Mills’ Bill

AUGUSTA – Speaker Sara Gideon today presented a LD 1775, “An Act to Protect Sustenance Fishing,” before the Legislature’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. LD 1775 was introduced by Speaker Gideon on behalf of Governor Janet Mills. The legislation establishes in Maine, for the first time, water quality standards designed to protect sustenance fishing in certain waters for Maine tribes.

“This bill establishes water quality standards that are designed to protect sustenance fishing,” said Speaker Sara Gideon. “The time is long past due that we show Maine’s Tribal communities that their concerns are our concerns, that we take action to address them responsibly, and that we address them together. I applaud the Governor and her Administration for bringing this bill forward in collaboration and partnership with Maine’s Tribes.”

Speaker Gideon’s submitted written testimony is below.

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Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, esteemed members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, I am Sara Gideon, and I represent the town of Freeport and part of Pownal. I also have the distinct honor of serving as the Speaker of the Maine House. I’m here today to present Governor Mill’s bill, L.D. 1775, which would protect water quality needed for sustenance fishing in certain waters. I’d like to thank Governor Mills and her administration for their work with Maine’s tribes on this very important piece of legislation.

Maine’s economy and history is inextricably linked to our State’s natural resources, and ultimately, its natural beauty. This of course, includes the beautiful waters of our State, and the health of those waters and the fish that inhabit them.

For many years, Tribal members in Maine have been prevented from fully engaging in sustenance fishing, because the fish in our waters are contaminated with toxic pollutants.  

For nearly as long, addressing that problem has been complicated by disagreements about the meaning and effect of Maine’s Indian Settlement Acts.  

But as I speak before this Committee today, I want to make it clear that it is with the determination to move past those conflicts that I present An Act to Protect Sustenance Fishing. The time is long past due that we show Maine’s Tribal communities that their concerns are our concerns, and that we take action to address them responsibly—and to address them together.

This bill establishes in Maine law, for the first time, water quality standards that are designed to protect sustenance fishing. It would create a newly designated use of sustenance fishing in a carefully defined way.

The bill would protect sustenance fishing by developing human health criteria for toxic pollutants (other than mercury which is treated differently in the law) using an assumed fish consumption rate of 200 grams per day. That rate would be the most protective in the country.

The sustenance fishing designated use will only apply in certain waterbodies and river segments that were agreed upon in discussions among the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.  The Tribes identified these waters as being among the most significant locations where Tribal members would engage in sustenance fishing if the fish were safe to eat.

Once again, I applaud the Governor for bringing this bill forward in collaboration and partnership  with Maine’s Tribes. LD 1775 is an opportunity for us to set past conflicts aside, and work together to accomplish important things for all Mainers.

Thank you.

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