After Passing Water Extraction Moratorium, Wells (Maine) Decides What’s Next

In yet another chapter of small-town Maine’s battle to retain local control of water supplies in the face of Nestle/Poland Spring’s expansion plans, voters in Wells (ME) recently passed a water extraction moratorium.

Designed to give the town breathing room to craft a local water extraction ordinance, the moratorium is temporary, and the hard work of crafting an ordinance is just beginning

In an email conservation between and Ms. El-Shafei of Save Our Water (an activist leading the charge for an ordinance), she said:

“We realize that this victory will be short-lived unless we can write an ordinance which will protect our groundwater from corporate exploitation, a rights-based ordinance, as opposed to a regulatory ordinance.

Simultaneously, we will be educating the community about just what a rights-based ordinance is and try to persuade them that this is the only way to go. That will not be an easy task as this is a conservative community. But people only have to look at the case of Fryeburg, Maine where citizens have been entangled in a costly legal battle for years, as the regulatory laws favor corporate rights over the rights of the citizens.”

In a less-pressured environment, a moratorium wouldn’t even be necessary, though it does reveal a certain mistrust of Nestle/Poland Spring among Mainers, who have witnessed a few too many lawsuits and “negotiated-in-secret” surprises.

Now, a process for developing that moratorium is becoming clear::

The process appears most likely to fall to a newly minted committee in Wells. Known as the Ordinance Review Committee, it was created in the fall to take a critical look at all of the town’s ordinances.

Officials indicate the committee will be charged with coming up with a draft water extraction ordinance, although the Board of Selectmen has not made a formal decision on the matter.

“We established the new committee,” said Joan Mooney, selectmen chairwoman. “They have a long list of ordinances they need to get done. (The water extraction ordinance) will be one of their priorities.”

Mooney said she expected the committee would look at samples of ordinances that other towns have already crafted as a basis for their work. “Then they’ll work with selectmen to get an ordinance written to take to the public.”

Good luck to the citizens of Wells, who clearly voted to retain control of their water and economy.

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