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April 3, 2008 at 12:00 am

MEREDA Praises Governor and Lawmakers for New Vernal Pool Legislation

PORTLAND, Maine – The president of Maine’s largest association of commercial real estate developers and owners today praised Governor John Baldacci and the Maine Legislature for clarifying laws governing development around vernal pools, which temporarily fill with water in the spring and early summer and are home to certain species during part of their lifecycle.

“Few issues have caused more concern and confusion for landowners and developers than vernal pools,” said Roxane Cole, president of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association. “The new laws passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor protect significant vernal pools while providing much greater clarity around just what a vernal pool is.”

Cole said that LD 1952, which took effect March 31 as Public Law chapter 533, makes a number of incremental improvements to the vernal pool regulatory process which will be reflected in subsequent rulemaking. The new law removes from the “significant vernal pool” list a pool that fills in the spring but dries out before July 15 in southern Maine or before July 31 in northern Maine.

The law also clarifies that rare species for the purposes of defining vernal pools are limited to ribbon snakes, wood turtles, swamp darner dragonflies, and comet darner dragonflies. In addition, the law states that vernal pools which have a permanently flowing inlet or outlet will no longer be identified as significant.

A second bill, LD 2223, which takes effect on June 30 as Public Law chapter 527, expands the in-lieu compensation program previously established for wetland compensation to include areas that are significant vernal pool habitat, high and moderate value waterfowl and wading bird habitat, and shorebird nesting, feeding and staging areas. Compensation is required to mitigate environmental impacts which cannot be avoided or minimized, and to off-set any adverse impacts with a resource of equal or greater value.

Cole said that MEREDA worked with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, members of the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee and representatives of environmental organizations in securing passage of the legislation.

“These bills demonstrate that it is possible to protect the environment while making laws more understandable and predictable for those who are engaged in responsible development and the land use professionals who work with them,” Cole said. “We are grateful to the Legislature and the Governor and his administration for helping to improve these important laws.”

Cole also singled out MEREDA member David Kamila, a land use consultant and principal with Stantec in Portland, for his leadership in the effort to clarify the laws around vernal pools.

Founded in 1985, MEREDA is an organization of commercial real estate owners, developers and related service providers, whose mission is to promote an environment for responsible development and ownership of real estate throughout the State of Maine.

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Categories: Press Release