Commentary

Senator John Patrick Drowning in Water Rights Controversy

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*For fear of reprisal, the author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous.

Oxford County, Maine residents have been suffering extreme drought conditions through 2016, with local wells running dry, and more than half of the Oxford County farmers surveyed reporting damage or loss due to drought conditions. Farmers desperate for water have been taking emergency loans after a USDA “disaster declaration”, and the media has widely reported wells in the region drying up, forcing costly drilling projects onto homeowners.

With this backdrop, the people of the Rumford region are asking some tough questions about Sen. John Patrick’s part in the sell-out of the rights to Rumford’s ground water, and so far, Sen. Patrick has not found the appropriate life preserver to keep his political career afloat.

Even as Senator Patrick attempts to defend himself after being caught talking with corporate water executives in his driveway recently, Sen. Patrick’s water problems are only getting worse.

It all started last December, when Sen. John Patrick introduced a bill that appeared on it’s face to be a boring revision of the Rumford Water District charter. The type of mundane legislation that often is proposed and passed without much fanfare in Augusta, with legislators placing trust in the local lawmaker who is sponsoring it to have done due diligence. Unfortunately, it is also the type of legislation that can sneak unsavory local changes into state law.

In this case, it was both the former and the latter.

A close look at this rather innocuously titled bill exposes serious concerns to Rumford area residents impacted by the drought.

Section 2 clearly lays out the possibility of the sale of the region’s water for commercial purposes:

“Sec. 2. Powers of the Rumford Water District. The district is authorized to take, hold, divert, use and distribute water for the purpose of supplying potable water for domestic, sanitary, commercial and municipal purposes.”

Buried deeper in Sen. John Patrick’s bill, in Sections 6 and 7, the Rumford Water District is issued authority to take land in Peru and Milton Township.

And then, Section 8 in Sen. Patrick’s bill provides the authority of Eminent Domain, saying the district is:

“authorized and empowered to acquire and hold real and personal property, including water rights, necessary or convenient for its purposes.”

Moving on, Section 10 of Sen. Patrick’s bill specifically empower the Rumford Water District with the authority to enter contracts with corporations:

“The district, through its trustees, in order to carry out the purposes of its incorporation, may contract with any person, district, utility, corporation or municipality.”

Section 13 of Sen. Patrick’s bill brings the corporate sell-out home, authorizing the district not just to enter intro contracts with corporations, but authorizing the sale of Rumford area water to corporations:

“An individual, firm or corporation, whether public, private or municipal, shall pay to the treasurer of the district the rates and other lawful charges established by the trustees for the  water used or made available to it.”

Now, two weeks before the November 8 election, Senator Patrick is desperate to defend himself from local residents deeply concerned about the fact that their Senator, supposedly a guardian of their interests, is responsible for creating a clear and distinct threat to their water rights.

Thanks to Senator John Patrick, Rumford area residents can have their water rights taken by eminent domain, the water from their wells pumped right out of the ground beneath their feet, and sold by their local government to any corporation the government chooses to sell it to.

Senator John Patrick has always tried to frame himself as a defender of the “working man.”

At this point, though, unless you are an executive for a big water corporation about to cash in on Sen. Patrick’s sell-out of Rumford area private property and water rights, or a well-driller standing to benefit from thousands of wells running dry as corporations suck the ground water out, it’s pretty hard to understand how Senator John Patrick is looking out for you.

At its core, Senator Patrick’s defense of his sell-out of Rumford is a simple, “I didn’t understand what I sponsored.”

Area residents we have talked to say that if you believe that from Senator Patrick, they have some water rights in the Mojave Desert to sell you.

This entire ordeal has left many of Senator Patrick’s constituents worried about what he may be tricked into selling out next, should he be reelected to serve.

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This author has requested to remain anonymous.

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