Liberty's leaky dams still leaking

Contractor pulls out of temporary fix proposal
By Fran Gonzalez | Feb 07, 2019
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez The Lake St. George dam, shown here Jan. 31, with Route 220 in the background. A black fence encloses a steel wheel, upper right. The mechanism opens a plate to allow water to pass from the lake, under the road, and down to the St. George River. Because of the leaks, Liberty Dam Manager Tammy Reynolds says she cannot control the water going over the spillway.

Liberty — Last summer, Liberty residents approved spending up to $25,000 to temporarily fix dams at Stevens Pond and Lake St. George, with work slated to begin in early September 2018.

The proposal was a stopgap measure to slow the leaks with available town funds. However, the project was never completed because the company hired to perform the work, Commercial Divers Inc., withdrew its proposal in October.

Linda Breslin, president of Citizen's Association of Liberty Lakes (CALL), said the company "pulled out because they felt the town would not be happy with the results — with what they would be able to do."  Commercial Divers Inc. suggested contacting engineering firms to assess and develop a plan of action.

Public Works Director and Dam Manager Tammy Reynolds said Commercial Divers Inc. representatives simply changed their minds and did not want to warranty the job.

"Nobody wants the liability of the dam," Reynolds said.

According to the CALL website, the Lake St. George 1820s-era dam has had leak issues over the years, including a deteriorating steel culvert under the road.

Breslin said at the special town meeting that "the town still has to consider an ultimate fix (to both dams) and that certainly can't be done for the amount of money that's been allotted."

Additional problems surfaced after Maine Department of Transportation overhauled the road across the town-owned Lake St. George dam and installed a cement box culvert in 2015.

Reynolds said in a previous Republican Journal article that water found its way around the outside of the culvert — an issue she believes is a result of poor construction planning by the state.

She said in spring 2016 as the Lake St. George dam, road and culvert project was nearing completion, during a routine water level maintenance check, she noticed "swirls on either side of the cement culvert;"  signs of water finding new paths around the recently installed structure. She contacted state officials, but, according to Reynolds, "they did not seem concerned."

"They had always looked at the project as their road, our dam, and they still do," she said.

Breslin said the leaking dam has made it difficult to maintain a prescribed 1985 water level order issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP Hydropower Coordinator Kathy Howatt  said in an email that the water level order, issued Sept. 25, 1985, by the Board of Environmental Protection, was in response to a petition from more than 50 lakefront property owners. The legal document establishes seasonal water levels and a minimum flow regime, Howatt said.

Breslin said the order was designed to maintain optimal water levels in the lake for summer recreation and to prevent flooding in periods of high rain and snow.

Reynolds said it is also beneficial for loons nesting on the lake.

"We set the water level down so the water does not wash away their eggs in spring," she said.

Recently, the town hired CES Inc. of Brewer to complete a site visit and assessment of the DOT road repair bid documents.

In its findings, CES noted the connection between the new concrete culvert installed under the road by the state and the old stone culvert is a "likely area of failure or new leakage."

Also discovered was a discrepancy showing DOT drawings calling for a water elevation that is 1.6 feet lower than the level established by the DEP water level order.

According to the CALL website, the discrepancy was also uncovered by longtime member Henry Newell who, in correspondence with state dam inspector Tony Fletcher, prompted an inquiry to DEP in an attempt to resolve the difference.

It is not clear whether the discrepancy is "only on paper" or if the actual elevation is off, Reynolds said. DOT has sent an inspector to the dam to measure the elevation but the findings have not yet been released.

CES went on to say the DOT design, as noted in the bid documents, "is not functioning as intended."

Breslin said the town of Liberty has enlisted the aid of Rep. Stanley Paige Ziegler, D-Dist. 96 (which includes Liberty), to facilitate a meeting among all involved parties, including DOT, DEP, state dam inspector Fletcher and town representatives, "to find who is responsible and get some results."

The CALL website said, "To this end, an initial meeting has been held with our state representative, Stanley Paige Ziegler, the town and CALL.

"Looking ahead, potential fixes will not be easy," the organization wrote. "Reworking the connection between the old and new culverts or trying to seal off the leaks around the lakeside intake both would require significant effort and expense. On a brighter side, it appears the right people and expertise are being mobilized."

Comments (1)
Posted by: from the kitchen | Feb 07, 2019 06:04

Dam good idea.



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