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Auburn’s Watershed Protection Efforts

AUBURN, ME (January 5, 2023) — The City of Auburn continues to take bold steps in the protection of Lake Auburn. The city is pursuing ordinances that are fair, easier to understand, and based on the best available science. At their next meeting, by giving a clear directive to the Planning Board, the Auburn City Council will take a historic vote that will start the process of prohibiting any future homes/animal farms within the portion of the Lake Auburn watershed zoned “Agriculture and Resource Protection.”

While not party to the lawsuit, in good faith, Auburn participated in recent mediation sessions to help resolve issues identified in a lawsuit filed by the City of Lewiston against the Auburn Water District. Despite productive and hopeful discussions among the three local government entities, the underlying lawsuit of Lewiston v. AWD remains unresolved.

“After failed attempts to help resolve this matter, the Auburn City Council will take action to protect the quality of the lake by implementing smart policy,” said Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque.

This action was on hold while the three entities were engaged in mediation. The city has already put into place the most stringent phosphorus control standards in the State of Maine. The city has also adopted zoning standards to encourage housing development in areas outside the watershed district to utilize existing utilities and infrastructure.

Subsequent action by the Auburn City Council will include implementing necessary septic ordinance revisions; increasing the minimum lot size within the watershed district; a subsurface wastewater disposal system inspection program; and adopting a revised watershed boundary line that embraces a conservative approach to the watershed boundary line confirmed by multiple outside consultants.

“Auburn believes that transparent, easier to understand watershed regulation that reduces development potential and holds a higher science-based standard for phosphorus control and wastewater disposal is worth pursuing without delay,” said Eric Cousens, Auburn’s Director of Planning, Permitting & Code. “We are hopeful that these science-based standards can be expanded by the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission (LAWPC) to increase protections to the watershed in upper watershed towns draining into Auburn.”

“Auburn can no longer allow failing septic systems to continue being replaced with systems that are polluting our drinking water,” added Mayor Levesque. “Watershed protection efforts should be based on science, expert opinions, and best available technology. We are also optimistic that LAWPC will work to insist that the towns in the upper watershed take the same protective action.

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