Priorities of the Land-Use Regulatory Program & the Water Quality Monitoring Program.
The Land Use Regulatory Program regulates the use of land that adjoins the Corridor rivers. The Saco River Corridor includes lands adjacent to the Saco, Ossipee, and Little Ossipee Rivers. The included lands are those within 500 feet of the normal or mean high water line and up to 1,000 feet in the 100-year floodplain. There are twenty municipalities along the 130 river miles of the Corridor. Each town appoints Commissioners to represent their interests on the board.
Development projects within the Corridor require permits. The Commission and staff conduct site visits, assess a project’s compatibility with the Saco River Corridor Act and consult with other relevant agencies in their review of applications. Projects that comply with the Commission’s standards receive permits valid for two years for construction.
The Commission’s review is extensive. Municipalities and abutting property owners are notified of any proposed project. The staff assists applicants in ensuring paperwork is completed appropriately and has an open-door policy for dispensing assistance. The Commission reviews permit applications, violations of the Act, and other relevant matters each month and consider how to lessen or eliminate adverse environmental impacts within the Corridor.
The Saco River Basin covers approximately 1,700 square miles: 863 (552,000 acres) in Eastern New Hampshire and 837 (536,000 acres) in southern Maine. In 2001, the Commission initiated a volunteer water quality monitoring program, with 30 volunteers, conducting biweekly monitoring and thousands of individual tests to maintain minimum water quality. This information is important because many communities in the Saco River Basin depend on these water bodies for recreation and their drinking water supply. Consistently, the Commission’s water quality program stretches into New Hampshire in cooperation with the Green Mountain Conservation Group and the Regional Interstate Volunteers for the Ecosystems and Rivers of the Saco “RIVERS.”
In 2020, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP), New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) approved the “RIVERS” Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), including all sampling protocols and procedures. Altogether, the SRCC has collected 20 years of water quality data and assisted communities in understanding the Corridor’s strengths, problems, and trends.
The Commission works with the Maine DEP to meet necessary state protocols and worked with them on extensive changes to the QAPP that provide useful and viable data to corridor towns. The Commission also works with the Green Mountain Conservation Group in monitoring source waters as they flow into the corridor. The SRCC also obtains QAPP approval from the NH DES and the U.S. EPA.
The Commission also works with the Federal Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Federal and State Departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(IF&W), the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, the Maine Natural Areas Program, N.H. Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and others.
In 1971, citizens living in the Saco River Basin discussed the importance of clean water and ensuring public health in southern Maine. Existing laws were inadequate to address the degradation of the area’s rivers.
Understanding this, residents approached the Maine State Legislature in 1971 to preserve the area’s rivers, including the Saco, Ossipee, and Little Ossipee Rivers, together described as the Saco River Corridor. The Legislature determined the best interests of Maine lay in the orderly protection and proper development of the Saco River Corridor.
To implement this conclusion, the Legislature created the Saco River Environmental Advisory Committee and charged it with devising a plan to ensure water quality.
Two years later, the 106th Legislature established the Saco River Corridor and created the Saco River Corridor Commission to carry out the purpose of the Saco River Corridor Act. The Commission has been recognized by the State of Maine in 2018.