Lincolnville board wants new dam agreement

By Staff | Sep 18, 2019
Photo by: Susan Mustapich The East and West dams in the Megunticook watershed support the recreational and real estate values of bodies of water that include Norton Pond in Lincolnville.

Dissatisfied with the Camden town administrator's recent response in ongoing differences over management of the East and West dams around Lake Megunticook, members of the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen on Sept. 9 agreed the two town boards need to meet to reexamine their longstanding dam maintenance agreement.

Further, Lincolnville selectmen agreed they will not commit to paying for dam upkeep and repair until such meeting is held.

Traditionally, the two towns have shared maintenance costs, one-third to Lincolnville and two-thirds to Camden. Lincolnville's decision to call for the full boards' review of their dam agreement comes in the wake of Camden's announced plans to study the feasibility of adding fish passage systems to the dams.

On behalf of the Lincolnville board, Selectman David Barrows initially wrote to Camden Selectmen Marc Ratner and Taylor Benzi June 8, calling for a review in light of Camden's discussions about reconstruction or modification of the East and West Dams, plans to borrow funds for these projects, and the possibility that Camden might ask Lincolnville to repay a third of the loan.

Ratner and Benzi also are liaisons to Camden's Megunticook Dams Advisory Committee.

In addition to expressing concerns, Barrows' June 8 letter asked for a reexamination of how future dam work plans are established, cost sharing and resolution of differences.

Once used to power industry along the Megunticook watershed, the East and West dams now control water levels in Lake Megunticook in Camden and Norton Pond in Lincolnville. The West Dam is generally static, while the East Dam is adjusted as needed to maintain water levels. Camden currently is making an emergency repair to the West Dam, replacing its gate.

In her Aug. 19 response, Camden Town Administrator Audra Caler-Bell suggested the two towns "schedule a meeting with a representative or representatives from each Board along with David Kinney (Lincolnville town administrator) and I."

She stated that "Camden has no intention of passing along the cost of any fish passage project to the Town of Lincolnville." She went on to say that the current need to repair the West Dam is an emergency and has nothing to do with fish passage.

Caler-Bell pointed out that the East and West dams were built for different purposes than those for which they are now used, and said they have been compromised by past repairs that are "not up to code." She added that the emergency requires "a status quo repair," and does not allow time for exploring options that might improve "the health of the watershed."

In their discussion Sept. 9 of Caler-Bell's response, Lincolnville selectmen agreed that they prefer a joint meeting of the two town boards of elected officials because they do not operate by sending representatives to meetings.

Referring to the list of requests made in Barrows' letter, Selectman Keryn Laite said, "I don't know how either town can move forward honestly without defining those for us."

Selectman Ladleah Dunn said the selectmen's "statement of contributing nothing financially until those are explicitly defined" perhaps needs to be made clearer.

Selectman Jon Fishman agreed with the requests stated in Barrows' letter, and to clarifying that "We're not putting any money into this until those things are defined, and we aren't going by this decades-old policy anymore."

Laite added, "We cannot be responsible or held hostage by a previous document that was written on a napkin."

Selectmen asked Barrows and Kinney to follow up on the discussion.

Laite moved "that the board delegate the task of communicating to the town of Camden our concerns regarding the oversight and operations of the East and West dams to David Barrows and the town administrator."

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