'A forestry operation gone awry' at Snow Bowl
Camden — Maine Department of Environmental Protection was on site at Camden Snow Bowl June 30 to assess measures the town has in place to control runoff into Hosmer Pond.
The agency made the visit following complaints of silt in the pond after heavy rains June 13, 14, 25 and 26. The water appeared brown in areas, and fine silt and sediment were visible at the public access area June 27. The silt was created by the logging operation, part of the redevelopment process of Ragged Mountain.
Maine DEP Bureau of Land and Water Quality enforcement agent Dawn Hallowell, following a tour of the property, described its condition as "a forestry operation gone awry."
Town Manager Patricia Finnigan said logging at the Snow Bowl was finished June 26, with the exception of some clean-up in the parking area. Contrary to rumors around town and on social media, the logger in charge was not fired, just finished, she said.
Hallowell said she expects penalties to be levied against the town as well as possibly the logging company in the form of a notice of violation. The town and DEP then would move on to a consent agreement to resolve the erosion and run-off issues and finally, an administrative agreement, Hallowell said.
According to Will Gartley, civil engineer for the redevelopment at the Snow Bowl, the logging operation caused areas of soil to be exposed, some in unauthorized locations. The ski slope Spinnaker was disturbed by logging, though it was not on the forestry plan, he said.
According to Gartley, the former T-bar line has man-made ditches on either side to help control the flow of water down the mountain. However, with cutting of the trees and increased traffic from heavy logging equipment on the mountain, the water flow was not restricted to those ditches, which direct water to culverts under the parking area and into Hosmer Pond. Waterbars installed on the mountain were also disturbed during the logging operations, he said, leading to further unanticipated erosion. Waterbars are earthen barriers that help direct water flow and prevent erosion.
A forester was hired by the town to oversee the logging operations and Camden Parks and Recreation Director and Snow Bowl General Manager Landon Fake suggested the town may have been "overly dependent on the forester" to manage logging operations.
"We kept asking the forester to get on the logger," Fake said.
"Our role here today is to gather some information," Hallowell said. "Discharge is a serious matter. ...more than likely there will be some enforcement action but today, I want to focus on a restoration plan. Are you doing enough? Are you not doing enough?"
"We still have a fair amount to do," Gartley said during the hike up Ragged Mountain, noting the difficulty in getting materials up the steep slope.
Royal Trailworks will begin work on trail construction this week, Finnigan said, noting part of the job will be to stabilize disturbed earth.
"We are definitely taking it seriously," she said prior to the hike. "We had erosion controls in place."
Those controls were not enough to keep Hosmer Pond clear, though, and additional measures including hay mats and fast growing seed are being placed to further stabilize loose areas, according to Finnigan.
Hallowell expressed some concern with the type of erosion control measures suggested by Snow Bowl staff, wondering if they were strong enough to hold on the incline.
"You need to button that up and you need to do it as soon as you can," she said. " ... We can't have another discharge from this site."
Two hours later, after returning to the lodge, town and DEP officials met with Royal Trailworks' Tom Wells, who said he has seen similar situations before. He said his company, which specializes in ski trail design and building, works in small sections and secures any open area with construction-grade waterbars to stop erosion.
Wells spoke of a new technique for ridding the cleared areas of stumps: grinding them underground. He said the equipment needed fits on an excavator and grinds the stumps below ground, then mixes the ground wood with the surrounding soil.
"It makes a flat surface," he said, adding he recently visited a site where the technique was used and there was no evident erosion after rainfall. "I think it would be a safe way to go."
Hallowell concurred and said further disturbance of the soil is less than desirable. She eluded to using the parking area as a holding pond rather than allowing further run-off to get into Hosmer Pond.
"You've got a lot of eyes on you," she said to Wells. "Everybody is watching."
"This is really serious to us. The mountain is important to us," Finnigan added. "We are taking this real personally."
Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.
(207) 338-3333 ext. 110
Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.
Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.
Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.
Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.