CAMDEN — The Camden Select Board voted 4-0 to go forward with a grant application concerning river restoration for the Megunticook despite pushback from members of the Save the Dam Falls Committee on May 10.

The town is also taking legal action against Rockport for failure to pay sewer fees.

Town Manager Audra Caler said there was a grant available through the National Coastal Resilience Fund that could help pay for getting a committee together on the issue of river restoration and hiring a consultant.

She said she had made it clear to the organization that the town had not decided on a specific path forward at this point.

Vice Chair Alison McKellar said, “The dam, as it is now, isn’t going to work out.”

Ken Gross of the Save the Dam Falls Committee argued that this grant application means the town has decided on restoration, but argued it has not held any public discussion on that issue yet. He said the town has not learned from the residents if they would tolerate the possibility of removing dams including the Montgomery Dam, and the town should have that information before paying for more studies and consultants.

Caler said May 12 that the grant does not require much in the way of a match from the town, and with more information a clearer set of options could be shown to the voters. She said that before there is a public vote there should be a clearer picture of what all of the options are.

“More information is always better,” she said.

Asked if there is a possibility that at some point the state or federal government could simply force the removal of dams regardless of public sentiment, she said, “I feel like this is where we’re going.”

She said various government agencies have been trying to incentivize the towns to do the right thing in regards to dams with these kinds of grants.

If towns refuse, the time could come when they are forced to pay for the dam removal, possibly as a result of new legislation. Climate change driving flooding could lead to this kind of action.

She noted as an example that the Maine Emergency Management Agency has gotten legislation passed regulating dam safety. In addition, FEMA can decide after a number of flooding incidents to cut off funding until an issue is resolved.

During public comment, Tom Rothwell, also of the Save the Dam Falls Committee, read the following statement:

“The decision to destroy or to keep the Montgomery Dam is a momentous decision for the town.

“Our goal, as members of the Save the Dam Falls Committee, has been and continues to be, to offer the citizens of Camden a voice in whether or not to destroy the dam. We carefully researched the process to lawfully petition the Select Board, and we followed the letter and intent of that law. To date you, the Select Board and Town Manager, have not presented a range of options for the dam, or even offered a public discussion that included preserving the dam.

“In fact, you have acted on the opposite extreme, and unlawfully denied the opportunity for the citizens to speak at the ballot box. On April 5, you denied lawful citizen petitions to vote on the issue.

“What is our recourse in the face of such anti-democratic and unlawful activity? We have checked the town charter for our recourse and we find that both the town charter and Maine State law spell out our course of action.

“According to the Town Charter, which repeats what is written in Maine State Law, our recourse is to call a Town Meeting. We are authorized to call at Town Meeting under the Town Charter Section 1.03.2.

“We think it is a shame that the Select Board feels it needs to meet in secret on this issue — we assume that the Executive Session at the end of tonight’s meeting, following Maine State law MRS 405(6)(E), will be about this issue.

“We are willing to meet any time with the Select Board to make the process as smooth as possible, and including discussing putting the article on the warrant in November, rather than calling a Special Town Meeting.”

The town’s attorney will be issuing a letter in response to the committee, Caler said.

Following the closed-door executive session May 10, the board considered the following motion:

“Motion to authorize the Town Attorney to commence legal action against the Town of Rockport for failure to pay sewer user fees, consistent with the Select Boards’ letter to the Town of Rockport, dated March 28, 2022.”

The motion was made by Marc Ratner, seconded by Sophie Romana. The board voted 4 – 0 to approve the action.

“The Camden Select Board will be sending out a letter early next week explaining to Camden residents why it’s in the best interest of the Town of Camden to stop accepting and treating wastewater from Rockport,” Caler said May 12. “Rockport issued a similar statement to their residents in November explaining why they were pursuing building their own treatment plant. The positive is that both towns are on the same page in regards to this broader goal.”