Major Grant Will Protect Water Quality in Maine

Sebago Clean Waters (SCW) reached a significant milestone along its path to protect the Sebago Lake watershed this week when the coalition received an $8 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant.

A father helps his daughter drink water near a stream in the Sebago Lake watershed.| Photo by Cait Bourgault.A father helps his daughter drink water near a stream in the Sebago Lake watershed.| Photo by Cait Bourgault.“This extraordinary $18.5 million combined investment from USDA and our partners gives a major boost to our efforts to protect Greater Portland’s water source,” said Spencer Meyer of the Highstead Foundation and co-chair of Sebago Clean Waters. “This project protects both the environment and the economy by linking the upstream landowners that steward the woods and waters and the downstream businesses and residents who rely on this pristine resource.”

” This extraordinary $18.5 million combined investment from USDA and our partners gives a major boost to our efforts to protect Greater Portland’s water source.” -  Spencer Meyer, Highstead Foundation

The major grant, managed by lead partner Portland Water District, will allow the nine-member partnership to work with private landowners, municipalities, and businesses to conserve 10,000 acres of forestland and implement other watershed protection projects.

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Portland Water District will manage the funds and work closely with other SCW partners. The five-year grant will support forest conservation, land stewardship, aquatic invasives control, stream connectivity, and landowner outreach in the Sebago Lake watershed.

SCW partners will use the grant to leverage another $10.5 million from public and private sources needed to reach the initiative’s five-year goal of protecting 10,000 acres of high-priority forestland in the region and implement other watershed protection measures.

This major new initiative will greatly enhance SCW’s ability to meet its goal of protecting 25 percent of the land in the Sebago watershed in the next 15 years. Currently, only 11 percent of the forests in the 234,000-acre watershed are conserved.

These forests act as a natural filter for the water that feeds into Sebago Lake. As the drinking water supply for more than 200,000 people in Greater Portland—Maine’s largest urban area—the lake is a unique and critical resource for the state. The increasing pace of development in the region threatens the quality of this pristine water supply.

Sebago Clean Waters is a partnership between the Portland Water District and eight local, regional, and national conservation organizations working collaboratively to protect water quality, community well-being, a vibrant economy, and fish and wildlife habitat in the Sebago region through voluntary forest conservation and stewardship.

Sebago Clean Waters partners are Loon Echo Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Highstead Foundation, Lakes Environmental Association, Open Space Institute, Portland Water District, The Nature Conservancy, and The Trust for Public Land.