Will the folks who want to Save the Dam Falls kindly stand down? There is no need for a special meeting to determine the fate of the Montgomery Dam.

As I explained to Ken Gross in the firehouse on Election Day, there’s no emergency confronting the town. There’s no immediate plan to remove the Montgomery Dam. There’s no funding at stake. There is, simply, nothing for the town to decide at the proposed special town meeting.

As far as I can tell, Save the Dam Falls wants the town to vote to maintain the Montgomery Dam in perpetuity at all costs. They want us, in other words, to write the status quo into law. Preserving the status quo is not an emergency.

Save the Dam Falls claims to speak for “the people,” but they obviously do not. Proof: a competing petition, asking the Select Board to study all options, garnered as many signatures in a few weeks as Save the Dam Falls did in months. Proof: Allison McKellar, hardly an advocate for keeping the Montgomery Dam, was reelected by a landslide in 2020. So much for allegations of a secret cabal thwarting the public will.

Let’s discuss the actual workings of democracy unfolding in the French Conference Room.

At the last Select Board meeting, a decision was deferred on whether or not to proceed with an $18,500 study — really, a plan for a study — of the river. The circumstances were deeply unfortunate: the two new board members were given meeting packets that described the proposal incorrectly. They were granted the time they deserve to review the correct information, so that they may cast an informed vote at the next meeting.

At that meeting, several people complained that the “RFP” for the study should have been public. The “RFP” was actually just “terms of reference,” a written description of the purpose and scope of the study. It took written form only because the initial solicitation — which was unwritten — engendered wildly different, incommensurate proposals. We should be glad the board took it upon itself to put those terms in writing, so that all parties were, literally, on the same page. That is them doing the people’s work.

None of that inside baseball really matters, though. What matters is public: the answer to the solicitation, i.e., the proposal itself. It’s available at camdenmaine.gov/Select%20Board%20Packet%2006.21.22.pdf.

The upcoming Select Board meeting will decide the fate of that proposal. It deserves approval. Contrary to the “secretive, antidemocratic” allegation, Task 2 specifically calls for a Task Force comprising (among others) business owners, environmental and nonprofit organization representatives … and community representatives. What more open and informed and democratic process could anyone wish for?

The Save the Dam Falls folks have made up their minds in advance of information that deserves their consideration. They cannot tell us what is required to restore the river. They cannot quantify the value of the Montgomery Dam to the town, if any, nor the value of any alternative not yet designed. They cannot know the effect on the fish or the harbor or commerce or the community of a restored Megunticook River.

I personally do not understand any passion to preserve an ugly, obsolete, industrial dam. Camden would be a pretty poor place were its main attraction a concrete eyesore.

But I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and neither should they. Let the study proceed and let’s see what plans are developed. Let’s purchase an informed decision. Let’s do what we all say we’ll do and consider all the options.

Let’s not meet this fall to decide there are no options, nor should ever be.

James K. Lowden
Camden,