CAMDEN – Driven by a grant deadline, Camden officials are pursuing feedback from Camden Public Library Trustees on designs showing how the Megunticook River between Main Street and Camden Harbor will look after removal of the Montgomery Dam.

A meeting is planned for 1 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 18, via Zoom. Town Manager Audra Caler, Select Board Vice Chair Alison McKellar, and board member Matt Siegel plan to meet with Library Director Nikki Maounis, and Library Trustees Pat Jones, Silvio Calabi, Marti Wolfe and Kristen Smith.

A $40,000 grant was awarded to the town of Camden in September 2019 to pay for designs and engineering for the full or partial removal of the dam. The Coastal Community Grant is managed by the state Department of Marine Resources, which receives funding from the federal National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Library Trustees oversee the Olmstead-designed Harbor Park, which includes a wall that separates the river from the park and contains a dam sluiceway. There is also a seawall at the base of the park.

Conceptual drawings of what it would look like without the dam show the river flowing over the lower pathway and bottom of Harbor Park and the walls removed.

On Aug. 10, board members selected Caler, McKellar, and Siegel as their representatives to meet with library officials. Board member Marc Ratner is very interested in the issue but will be on vacation.

Select Board Chair Bob Falciani said the meeting of the “modest-sized task force” would include Maounis and three members of the Library Board of Trustees. Caler will draw up an agenda, he said.

“There are some immediate decisions that need to be made in regard to certain priorities on various options with respect to the Montgomery Dam,” he said. “The consensus was we have some things we have to do, and we can’t wait.”

A joint meeting between the full Select Board and Library Board of Trustees is postponed, and would have involved 18 people, he said.

Caler said she is “staying very clear” on the intent of the meeting. Library officials will be asked for their input on various designs within the “defined parameter of removing the dam and restoring the channel.”

There are a lot of variations and different design options for how that is achieved, she said.

Caler said they would not be talking about why they picked this option or didn’t look at the other options.

Falciani said he thought the task force would meet three or four times over the next two months.

Caler and McKellar disagreed, saying the grant requires engineering to be completed by November, and for this to be accomplished, the concept must be done by September. Caler hopes there will be two meetings with library representatives, and that they get good design input.

Siegel asked questions before confirming he would serve on the task force. He asked if options for Montgomery Dam have been drawn out and if the November deadline was for these options.

Siegel also asked if they would be walking into a hostile room with the Library Board.

Falciani said he does not expect a hostile reception. “If it comes to a point of disagreement, that also has to be documented.” He described the upcoming meetings as “a good opportunity to work with the library trustees to see if we can continue the objective to work more proactively and better with them.”

McKellar agreed she does not think there will be hostility. She has presented to the Board of Trustees twice, she said.

“They want as little of Harbor Park to be impacted, but know some of it has to be impacted,” she said.

Falciani made it clear there were not going to be designs for three options, only one. Three options for the dam were investigated from environmental, hydrologic, and financial perspectives in the Montgomery Dam feasibility study, completed by Interfluve in May 2019. Those options are dam removal, which the study recommends, lowering the dam spillway by two feet and repairing the existing dam.

McKellar listed options within the dam removal scenario, including a recirculating waterfall, granite bridges, boardwalks, sea wall design, and kayak access.

“The main thing with the parameters of the grant is it has to be something that reduces our flood risk from both inland flooding, river flooding and sea level rise,” she said. “If it doesn’t significantly reduce that risk it doesn’t qualify for the grant funding. We can’t use this to keep our risk level the same.”

The grant is geared towards using green infrastructure, which means nature-based solutions. The grant will not pay for gray-infrastructure, or man-made solutions, she said.

“We’re preparing to get something people can vote on. It’s not like we’re trying to push something through. We’re hoping to create something collectively,” she said.

Siegel asked if the board is aiming for a vote in June 2022.

Falciani sees the board deliberating into the next year to decide what will be on the ballot. The earliest vote would be June, which means a ballot option must be ready by the first of April 2022.

McKellar raised the issue of cost and finding funding for the chosen option before crafting something for a public vote. “For a lot of people, the question is going to be who’s paying for it,” she said.

Caler laid out her view of the path forward. After the design is done, they will do cost estimates, she said. The next step is to present the project to funding partners, find out what funding the town can expect and what the town’s share of the costs, or match, would be.

All that needs to be done to ask voters if they support the project or not, she explained.

During the meeting, an email came to McKellar asking if the board would clarify how folks can participate in designs.

McKellar said sending emails to all the board members is best. “This is the stage where we are looking for comments on what people want to see,” she said.

She also listed information on the town website, camdenmaine.gov, about the Montgomery Dam study, and videos of two sets of conversations about design options for dam removal.

McKellar asked Falciani if updates on the task force meetings should be on the agenda for future Select Board meetings, to keep people updated. Falciani agreed this should be on the agenda, instead of discussed during Select Board reports.