Residents question erosion control measures at Snow Bowl

By Stephanie Grinnell | Jul 10, 2014
Courtesy of: Lee Sligh A 50-foot turbidity curtain was installed in Hosmer Pond to help prevent silt from washing down Hosmer Brook into the pond. July 5, it was nearly under water following heavy rains.

Camden — Several residents July 8 questioned use of a turbidity curtain in Hosmer Pond to stop silt from Ragged Mountain, as well as other erosion control measures.

The residents, many of them property owners near Hosmer Pond, spoke during the select board meeting following a presentation by Snow Bowl General Manager Landon Fake. Fake showed photos of erosion controls and explained what steps had been taken since a June 13 rainstorm. That storm -- and two others in subsequent weeks -- washed soil from Ragged Mountain into Hosmer Pond and Brook, leading to a site visit June 30 from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.The soil was disturbed by logging operations taking place as part of the redevelopment of the town-owned ski and recreation area.

Fake said logging on the mountain is complete, with the exception of less than a total of 2 acres still needed for trail-building and a corridor for electricity. Areas of selective logging planned to be completed this year will be put off, he said. To date, the town has installed a turbidity curtain to capture sediment washing into the pond from Hosmer Brook and installed 600 bales of hay across 7 acres of disturbed land. Fake admitted some of the measures were less than successful, but he said contamination to the pond has been greatly reduced.

"We were probably not the major contributor of silt this time," he said, referring to recent additional runoff into the pond caused by Hurricane Arthur. He assured residents it is safe to swim in the pond, as the most recent test July 2 showed bacterial levels well under the state limit.

Also in attendance July 8 was Tom Wells of Royal Trail Works, based in Vermont, who has been hired to build ski trails. He spoke of his plans regarding erosion controls and said appearance in the summer is almost equally important.

"Aim for a golf course even though it's a ski area," he said.

Wells complimented Snow Bowl staff for the efforts made to control erosion since he was in Camden a week prior, and said while he was not defending the loggers, it was a difficult job.

"It's a shame what happened," Wells said, adding he has seen similar -- and worse -- situations before. "We pride ourselves on erosion control; that will not happen."

Town Manager Patricia Finnigan noted Wells had already spoken with DEP representatives, who were happy with his planned approach.

"We're on the same team, no doubt," Wells said of the state agency.

Resident Dana Strout questioned how Wells planned to removed the remaining 2 acres of trees; Wells said he has different types of equipment and does not plan to haul whole trees down the mountainside.

"I wish they had finished the project, I'm not a logger," Wells said.

Lee Sligh -- a vocal critic of the project and a certified erosion control contractor -- said she has been disappointed by the "false assurances" she's heard from town officials regarding ongoing erosion controls. She was most disappointed, she said, by the turbidity curtain. She said DEP guidelines state the curtain should extend shore to shore and fully contain any sediment. Town officials describe the existing 50-foot turbidity curtain as "working somewhat."

"This is the type of problem in credibility I'm talking about," Sligh said.

She said hay bales in place are not properly secured with stakes as well.

"I keep hearing everything is OK now and it's not OK," she said.

Finnigan noted the turbidity curtain was an extra measure not required or requested by the DEP. A New Hampshire supplier sent a salesperson to the Snow Bowl with the fence and an offer to oversee its installation, Finnigan said, adding that additional lengths have been ordered and should arrive this week.

"We are not done, it's still a work in progress," she said. "It's an ongoing responsibility we have."

Resident Dorie Klein said she had many questions for town officials but asked only a few, including if the town plans to continue to follow a forestry plan used by the logging company, which also suggested the town join the Forest Stewardship Council. Klein expressed concern about the town's being required to follow FSC guidelines for wood harvests.

"Ask yourselves, is the Snow Bowl primarily for recreation or harvesting forestry products?" she said.

Wells noted he is in the process of developing his plan -- his first day of work in Camden was July 8 -- so he could not speak to her question. Finnigan noted the remaining tree work is considered part of the redevelopment process, rather than part of the forestry management plan.

Another resident questioned how town and Snow Bowl officials chose the logger and why so much damage was allowed to happen.

"We clearly hired people who knew what they were doing," Finnigan said, speaking of heavy spring rains that did not cause any problems.

"What are you looking for? Are you looking to blame somebody?" Select Board Chairman Martin Cates asked when several residents offered comments without approaching the microphone.

Strout returned to the podium to speak to the issue of a construction manager. The town is in the process of interviewing for the position.

"Pat's got a town to run, she's not a professional construction manager," Strout said. " ... Somebody needed to be out there all the time to coordinate these things. ... What we did is give it an open invitation [to go wrong]."

Comments (2)
Posted by: Lee Sligh | Jul 12, 2014 06:28

Here's a good article about the DEP's follow-up visit on Thursday:

http://www.penbaypilot.com/article/camden-snow-bowl-project-remains-under-dep-scrutiny-making-progress-more-work-ahead/36975

 



Posted by: Lee Sligh | Jul 11, 2014 07:44

The long-term effects of the major sediment dumps into Hosmer Pond remain to be seen.  Read the following short article on the effects of sediment on fish:

http://www.lakesuperiorstreams.org/understanding/impact_erosion.html

I personally have found two 6" dead fish with gills covered with tiny lacerations (without searching for them - they just washed up by my float).  Dead fish were not a common occurrence on Hosmer Pond before the sediment dumps, and I gather that gill lacerations of this sort are not usual.

The town could help keep tabs on what is happening by asking the public to keep an eye out for dead fish or other unusual events and providing a contact person with information about how to report them.  Many people who use pond water in their seasonal cabins have found their pumps clogged with sediment.

The erosion problems continue to be a sore point, with the town doing a lot of finger pointing and offering more assurances that everything is fine now.  The erosion control measures are certainly improving, but I have not been able to get clear answers about specific BMP plans, timing and oversight.  A big question also remains about whose responsibility it was to design, implement and oversee erosion control during the tree removal phase.

Many voices have asked for a dedicated project manager going forward (someone with DEP erosion control certification who is experienced in construction oversight), but the town is lending a deaf ear to this so far.  It seems like a pretty complex project to me, and I don't understand why they would resist this suggestion given the catastrophic (and completely foreseeable) failure of erosion control on the mountain for weeks in June.



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Stephanie Grinnell
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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.

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