Sebago Lake
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Sebago Clean Waters, Led by OSI & Partners, Awarded $8 Million Federal Grant

Photo Credit: Chris Pinchbeck

STANDISH, ME (Sep. 18, 2020) — Two OSI partnerships have received a total of $10 million in federal Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCCP) grants aimed at harnessing the protection of forested lands for clean water. Focused on the Sebago Lake watershed region of Maine, and the Upper Delaware River watershed regions of New York and Pennsylvania, the grants will enable public and private partners including OSI to accelerate the pace of land protection to safeguard drinking water.

“This pair of federal grants will spur innovation at a time when funding constraints require increased creativity, and ensure clean water and protected forests for countless residents for generations to come, within both the Sebago Lake and Delaware River watersheds,” said Peter Howell, Executive Vice President at OSI. “OSI congratulates our partners Sebago Clean Waters and The Nature Conservancy for their tireless efforts on behalf of land and drinking water protection. OSI is gratified that these two places have been recognized as national leaders in innovative approaches to forest and water conservation.”

In the most populated region of Maine, an effort to harness land protection to safeguard drinking water received an $8 million funding award. The RCCP grant, secured from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), will boost the Sebago Clean Waters (SCW) coalition considerably along its path to protect 35,000 acres of forested lands within the Sebago Lake watershed.

Portland Water District, as the lead partner, will manage the grant and work closely with other members of SCW including OSI. The five-year grant will support forest conservation, land stewardship, aquatic invasives control, stream connectivity, and landowner outreach in the Sebago Lake watershed.

The grant will leverage another $10.5 million from public and private sources, which is 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 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.

More than 15 million people rely on the Delaware River for drinking water, including residents of Philadelphia, PA, and Trenton, NJ.
More than 15 million people rely on the Delaware River for drinking water, including residents of Philadelphia, PA, and Trenton, NJ.

As the drinking water supply for more than 200,000 people in Greater Portland, 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.

“We work with willing landowners who want to see their forests stay forests forever. The result is we get cleaner drinking water and help keep Maine looking like Maine,” added Paul Hunt, environmental services manager at Portland Water District.

In addition to protecting drinking water, these funds will improve aquatic habitat for wildlife, boost local and regional economic benefits through the forest products sector, and provide public health benefits through increased recreational access.

Sebago Clean Waters is a partnership between the Portland Water District and eight local, regional, and national conservation organizations (OSI, Loon Echo Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Highstead Foundation, the Lakes Environmental Association, The Nature Conservancy, and The Trust for Public Land) 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.

In its first two and a half years, SCW partners have already protected nearly 2,000 acres of critical forest with the help of public and private donors, and a growing number of Portland-based business partners.

In the Delaware River Watershed region, The Nature Conservancy and its partners, including OSI, have received a $2 million grant to launch an innovative model aggregating several large forested properties in one carbon-easement project, enabling landowners to place conservation easements on their land, obtain forest certification, and potentially secure revenues through the sale of carbon credits for storing and sequestering carbon.

More than 15 million people rely on the Delaware River for drinking water, including residents of Philadelphia, PA, Wilmington, DE, and Trenton, NJ.

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