Maine Water Group POWWR Wants Rights Based Ordinance Put to Vote

Maine water rights group POWWR – unhappy with a Nestle-friendly ordinance (written for the Shapleigh Board of Selectmen by a Nestle-referred consultant) – presented a petition calling for the town to vote on POWWR’s own rights-based ordinance:

To meet or not to meet is the question confronting Shapleigh selectmen after being presented with a petition to vote on banning water extraction.

Shapleigh Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Hayes said Monday the board is waiting for an opinion from town attorney Ronald Bourque about how to proceed.

The issue was forced when members of Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, or POWWR, presented a petition to Shapleigh Town Clerk Joanne Rankin calling for a town meeting to allow residents to vote on the “rights-based” ordinance drafted by the organization.

Rankin said Jan. 30 that all signatures on the petition have been certified.

The petition for the town meeting came after members of POWWR rejected an invitation to participate in a Jan. 28 workshop to resolve differences between the proposed ordinances to regulate or ban water extraction.

In the wake of Nestle’s attempt to extract water from a nearby aquifer – and what many felt was an attempt to rush the town into a deal by selectmen – Shapleigh residents have already passed a 180-day moratorium on commercial water extraction, and many want a rights-based ordinance put into law.

Selectmen refused to even place POWWR’s ordinance on the ballot, suggesting it violates the state’s constitution, while POWWR members say the consultant-written ordinance is sipmly too weak:

“I don’t trust these big corporations,” Manville said about Nestle, owners of Poland Spring. He also worried about damage to roads because of increased truck traffic.

Hayes said he has not made up his mind on whether Poland Spring should be allowed to withdraw water for bottling. He said he is concerned international trade agreements might override local ordinances governing extraction because Poland Spring is a subsidiary of the Swiss-owned Nestle.

In a Jan. 27 letter to Shapleigh selectmen, POWWR members called the regulating water extraction ordinance “weak,” especially as it made no provisions for the rate of extraction, hours of operation and traffic flow.

You can read the whole article here: Register Your Thoughts: Group tries to force water vote (Feb. 5, 2009).