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Town votes to buy dam; purchase won't raise taxes

By Fran Gonzalez | Nov 22, 2020
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Nearly all residents attending the special town meeting Nov. 21 approved the town's purchasing Swan Lake Dam from Goose River Hydro.

Swanville — Nearly all of the 50 or so residents attending the special town meeting Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Swanville Town Office parking lot raised their hands in approval of the town buying the Swan Lake Dam for $150,000 plus closing costs from Goose River Hydro.

One resident asked Selectman Cindy Boguen to clarify where the funds would be coming from before the town took the vote. Boguen said the money would come from reappropriated municipal funds without having to raise taxes.

Back in May, Goose River Hydro, the current owner, offered the dam to the town for $100,000, but after another entity made an offer to buy it, the price went up to $150,000.

Boguen previously said that a buyer from Connecticut, whom she described as an "environmentalist millionaire," wanted to remove the dam. If the dam were removed, she said, it would change the entire lake and all the lakefront properties. “The dam holds back about 8 feet of water.”

The removal of the dam would have a ripple effect, with lakeside homeowners losing property value, as the rest of the town shouldered more taxes. Swan Lake State Park, at the north end of the lake, would be affected, with lower lake levels impacting swimming, canoeing and fishing and environmental issues would also be felt across the watershed.

As the owner of the dam, the town will keep the contract it previously negotiated with Goose River Hydro for the same high and low water levels.

Swanville will not be generating any electricity at the dam, Boguen said previously, since there are no turbines located there, and because of that, the town will not need a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The dam will be regulated by the state.

Maintenance responsibilities will fall to the town’s Dam Committee, with the addition of representatives from Searsport and Frankfort.

Bill Baxter, treasurer of Swan Lake Association, said previously Goose River Hydro was not granted a license by FERC because it did not effectively meet all the requirements.

"Normally the licenses are granted to large companies," he said, "but Goose River is one or two guys and the licensing requirements may have overwhelmed them." Without license renewal, Baxter said, the company is effectively out of business.

Without the dam, Baxter said, Swan Lake would revert to Goose Pond, the original body of water on the north side of the lake, and Goose River on the south.

Longtime Swanville resident Dianne Horton, who lives on the lake, said she is pleased with the outcome of the vote. "It is wonderful," she said, that the town now owns a dam.

"I think it is a splendid idea — it is much better than the alternative," her husband, Dan, said.

The Hortons, who are both retired teachers, said they spent their honeymoon in 1971 sleeping in a car on the side of the lake, and have always appreciated and enjoyed the beauty of Waldo County's second-largest body of water.

Dan said moving forward, the lake committee will need to take up social issues dealing with the dam, along with prioritizing spillway repairs and coming up with some federal grant money.

Resident Carol Reedy-Steele said there is no negative associated with this purchase because "it isn't raising taxes."

Contacted Monday, Nov. 23, Boguen said next steps are a title search and confirmation of the water rights. A closing date has not been set.

Residents socialize before the special town meeting Nov. 21 at the Swanville Town Office parking lot. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Swanville residents vote to have the town purchase the Swan Lake Dam at a special town meeting held in the Town Office parking lot Nov. 21. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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Comments (1)
Posted by: from the kitchen | Nov 23, 2020 13:14

Congrats to GRH. Looks like the ‘ Billonaire buyer’ scam worked.



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