This election season, plenty of issues divide Mainers. The clean water bond, however, is one of the best examples of bipartisan work at the State House this year.

Question 6 on Tuesday’s ballot was created with the input of an uncommonly broad coalition of supporters to deliver common-sense solutions that benefit Maine people. It earned the support of the vast majority of my colleagues in the Legislature — whether they were independents, Democrats or Republicans. I thank Rep. Kenneth Fredette of Newport, the House Republican leader, for all he did to make this happen and I credit him with preventing another veto.

This bond question would do so much good for our state by providing abundant and high-quality drinking water across Maine, helping communities prepare for storms and flooding, conserving habitat for recreational fisheries and wildlife and putting Mainers to work.

Question 6 promotes public health and safety. It creates jobs. It supports our outdoor heritage and economy. It makes smart, much-needed investments in critical but aging infrastructure.

It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

But you don’t have to rely solely on my word. The clean water bond is backed by folks from all parts of the state — contractors, the business community, conservationists, sportsmen and sportswomen and local officials, among others.

Question 6 would invest $10 million that is badly needed for water infrastructure improvements across Maine and also would let us take advantage of available federal funds. Much of Maine’s aging water infrastructure dates back to World War II or even a century ago.

Making these investments now, especially since interest rates are so low, makes sense. We know that it’s cheaper for taxpayers to address such issues before they get out of hand. Putting off water infrastructure needs can cost two-and-a-half times more, a recent study by the Portland Water District found.

The investment would be used in three different ways:

• $5.4 million to upgrade built infrastructure, such as culverts and stream crossings, which reconnect habitat for fish and other wildlife.

• $400,000 for wetlands restoration to provide increased flood mitigation, water quality and wildlife habitat benefits.

• $4.2 million for a revolving loan fund for upgrades to drinking water systems and wastewater treatment facilities — and to secure an additional $21 million in federal funding for those purposes.

Question 6 is also a jobs bond, which is one reason why the Legislature, along with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated General Contractors of Maine, support it. The clean water bond will create or sustain 1,000 jobs at a time when Mainers want and need to get back to work. It would add $119 million to our Gross Domestic Product. It would mean an additional $38.5 million to personal earnings.

We certainly can’t turn our backs on that kind of opportunity. Wouldn’t you love to see Mainers putting on their tool belts and at work at construction sites in good-paying jobs?

The economic impact isn’t limited to construction and related fields.

Our outdoor recreation economy, such an important part of the Maine brand, also benefits from this proposed investment. This part of our economy supports 65,000 jobs — and contributes $382 million in annual state tax revenue.

Here’s just one example of how Question 6 benefits this sector. Maine is home to nearly all of the nation’s intact native brook habitat, and these spots draw visitors from well beyond Maine’s borders. The bond would address culverts that now impede the passage of brook trout. Two-thirds of the culverts surveyed by the Nature Conservancy are now barriers to fish and other wildlife.

Let’s stand up for public health, the safety of our citizens, economic growth and our Maine brand. Please consider the importance of water and water infrastructure and make your voices heard when you head to the polls on Tuesday.

Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, is the assistant House majority leader and sponsored the legislation that became Question 6.


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