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Lewiston files suit against Auburn Water District to protect water supply amid development concerns

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Lake Auburn at sunset on August 28, 2016.

The city of Lewiston has filed a lawsuit against the Auburn Water District to protect the quality of Lake Auburn, the water source for both cities and the town of Poland. Lewiston wants a prohibition on development in the watershed without its written consent and the approval of the Maine Drinking Water Program.

The lawsuit maintains that the Auburn Water District is bound to certain obligations under its legislative charter and by a nearly 30-year-old water protection agreement. The agreement was signed in the early '90s after government regulators gave Lewiston and Auburn a waiver from a federal requirement to build a water filtration plant estimated to cost more than $20 million at the time.

There was one primary condition: that Lake Auburn's good water quality be maintained. But the two cities recently parted ways when Auburn approved rezoning a parcel of land that borders the lake.

In March, Lewiston asked the Auburn Water District to adopt a moratorium on future development in the watershed unless a study showed there would be no adverse effects. According to a statement from the city, the Auburn Water District has not responded to the request and has refused to discuss or negotiate the matter.

In response, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque issued a statement calling the lawsuit "unfortunate" and pledging his support to the water district's trustees. He says there are no current plans for development at the site and says the city is committed to protecting the lake's water quality.