Ralph Sarty

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Water Wars

I’ve been spending some time reading online materials on the question of the water supply here in Maine because water has become a controversial topic not only here in Maine but throughout the world. It seems there is an awesome international company with the innocuous sounding name of Nestlé — think hot cocoa and chockies — based in Switzerland with sales of around $60 billion. Nestlé just happens to be the largest food company in the world and through it’s subsidiary, Nestlé Waters North America, it’s sucking Maine’s delicious water out of our ground — Maine’s drinking water has been ranked number one in the nation — at a rate of well over 500,000,000 gallons per year and putting it in little plastic bottles, Poland Spring brand, with revenues of $845,000,000 last year. Not bad!

Back in 2004, Jim Wilfong, a business leader and former state legislator from Fryeburg, Maine, got the idea of slapping a little tax of 3¢– yikes, not a tax! — on each of these little Poland Spring plastic bottles of water (20 fluid ounces) which he figured would raise about $100,000,000 yearly. (There are 128 fluid ounces in a gallon or 6.4 bottles in a gallon, so that’s 6.4X3¢=19.2¢ per gallon, times 500 million gallons comes close to the $100 million.) His plan was to create a Maine Water Dividend Trust and a Water Resources Conservation Board with the Trust supporting small businesses and property tax reduction, and the Board monitoring quality and ensuring sustainability of the water aquifer. Sounded reasonable to me.

Oh, but what a storm was created by this well thought out and detailed proposal. Profits would be hit (3¢ doesn’t seem to me that bad a tax on one of those bottles), jobs would be lost, chaos would ensue, and Nestlé would probably withdraw from Maine! Who cares if $100 million might be raised for the state of Maine? Heavy hitting lawyers from Nestlé as well as politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, including the governor, swung into action and it didn’t take long before the bill, and also a follow on citizen’s initiative petition, were shot down. Nestlé, their lawyers and spinmeisters, aided by the anti-tax crowd, had prevailed with ease. So much for that bottle tax.

But Jim Wilfong didn’t give up. This time he scaled back his proposal with the objective of monitoring water quality and sustainability. This would ensure that water coming out of the aquifer in Maine is subject to the same degree of protection as surface waters, i.e. lakes and ponds. But a snag developed here because of the old “absolute dominion” rule: the landowner has exclusive rights to all the water under his land. By the time his petition got back to him from the Secretary of State, its first sentence read, “Do you want to transfer private ownership of groundwater to the State?” He later found that Nestlé’s lawyers had actually suggested this wording. But Wilfong and his group did succeed in passing legislation last year to give groundwater the same protection as surface water under the Natural Resource Protection Act, and now he is promoting a referendum that would change the law and put all groundwater into a public trust. This would at last do away with the absolute dominion rule.

In 2006, the town of Denmark, Maine, passed a water extraction ordinance which was another good step forward in giving ground water the same protection as surface water. This ordinance should serve as a good model for other towns, and it’s possible that the ordinance could be extended to actually obtain some revenue. This came up in a Candidates Night on Oct. 23, 2008, in which Republican Ralph Sarty, the current State Rep for District 99, appeared with Lee Goldsberry, the Democratic challenger. Ralph was in favor of revenues staying in the municipality whereas Lee would like to see revenues go to the State of Maine. The public trust proposed by Jim Wilfong in his referendum would appear to be the best place for these revenues so that the whole State of Maine could benefit.

UPDATE: Check the excellent blog of TC near McCloud, CA, which is devoted to stopping Nestlé water. There’s a lot of good information there.

GeologyJoe has an excellent post on this subject. As a geologist he has a unique and knowledgeable viewpoint on the whole situation. It’s time I started filling the Poland Spring bottles with our own tap water, and keeping a few on hand for our various needs.

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Lee Goldsberry

Lee Goldsberry is a clear eyed thinker, modest, and an overall good man. He’s a candidate for the Maine House of Representatives District 99. (Whatever happened to Agent 99, by the way?) District 99 has five towns and three counties represented in it: Baldwin in Cumberland County, Cornish in York County, Denmark in Oxford County, Limington in York County, and Sebago in Cumberland County. So that’s a cross section, you might say, of some of the small towns in South-Western Maine.

Lee is currently an Associate Professor of Education at University of Southern Maine, headquartered in Portland, Maine. He has four major planks on which he is running for this District 99 seat: Clean Water, Economic Development, Energy, and Education, and he has innovative approaches in each of these areas. Here they are in greater detail.

  • Clean Water: Maine clearly needs to protect its groundwater from pollution and from commercial exploitation. Lee will energetically pursue legislation to protect Maine’s wealth in clean water for our children and grandchildren.
  • Economic Development: The cost of living is on the rise in Maine. Lee will strive to strengthen our economy through property tax relief, affordable health care, and quality jobs.
  • Energy: Pursuit of sustainable resources will eliminate our dependence on expensive, foreign oil and will create quality “green collar” jobs in Maine, strengthening our economy.
  • Education: As a professor and school board member, Lee will strive for educational excellence starting from pre-school through graduate studies, giving Maine’s students the necessary tools to succeed in today’s changing job market.

Lee will also put a large emphasis on communication with voters. Here is his statement on this:

Leaders in Augusta need to interact and collaborate with town leaders, business leaders, school leaders and citizens. If elected, communication with local leaders will be a priority. I will develop web-based communication and visit the five towns regularly to assure healthy civic interaction. Each citizen matters.


On Wednesday, as I noted in my previous post, I put up a few Lee Goldsberry signs on Hancock Pond road here in Denmark. Someone else had already put up several and I added to them. We’ll need more signs.

I like the top line on Lee’s sign: Lee for ME, with the bottom line Goldsberry. One could take that either as Lee for Maine, or simply as Lee for me, in addition to the intended Lee Goldsberry for Maine. Yes, Lee is for me and for Maine, and I’ll be voting for him on November 4, a good man!

Let me just add that Lee is running against Ralph Sarty, the present occupant of House Seat 99. Ralph defeated Kate Smith in a close race a year ago. I’ve blogged about that in other posts here.

UPDATE: Here are the election results as printed in the Bridgton News today, Nov. 6, 2008. Sarty was the winner with 53.4% of the vote. Note that Goldsberry carried his home town of Cornish by 65.5% while Sarty carried Denmark, his home town, by 71.1%.

TOWN Sarty Goldsberry Percentage
Cornish 262 498 65.5% Goldsberry
Limington 885 904 50.5% Goldsberry
Baldwin 446 337 57.0% Sarty
Sebago 584 389 60.0% Sarty
Denmark 482 196 71.1% Sarty
TOTAL: 2659 2324 53.4% Sarty

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What is so rare as a day in June late September or October, for then if ever come the greatest days to enjoy and breathe in the great outdoors. Here in Maine we’ve been having the greatest days the past several days. I’ve gotta get back out there and do some real walking/hiking. (I just got through putting up some Lee Goldsberry signs; Lee is running against Ralph Sarty for State Rep for District 99 here in Maine.) There are NO FREAKING BUGS out any more — no mosquitoes, no black flies, no ticks, and great visibility. You can see everywhere, the distant hills and mountains, the colored (or beginning to be colored) foliage, you name it. I’ve gotta take a little break from politicking even in this critical election year. Anybody else wanta go hiking? :lol:

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