the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's handling of dam relicensing. Under Gov. Paul LePage, the department has managed to miss a key deadline for each of three separate dam projects -- and came within hours of missing a fourth -- the effect of which was to irrevocably waive the state's authority over the terms of the new 25-30 year license, including having a say over water levels, fish passage, and recreational opportunities. Prior to this administration, the state has never missed such a deadline.
The first failure -- at Flagstaff Lake -- is hard to understand, though many think the fact that DEP commissioner Patricia Aho worked for the law firm that has represented the respective dam owners in each of the four proceedings may be relevant. The immediate cause of the later failures -- which I first reported in the Portland Press Herald this summer -- appear to be the result of nearly a year of confusion and disarray at the DEP.
In tomorrow's Press Herald, I report on a new development: a move by leading Democratic legislators to force accountability by introducing a bill that would force the department to report to legislators as each dam deadline approaches. I also spoke to key DEP officials recently, who offer additional details and explanations for their administrative failures, but say they have taken steps to ensure a fourth repeat does not occur.
The next dam deadline: Feb. 13 at Brassua Lake, west of Moosehead.
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