CAMDEN — The town’s new Megunticook River Citizen’s Advisory Committee began its work Tuesday, Sept. 20 in an upstairs room at the Camden Opera House, the first step in a process that could take years to complete.

Select Board member Sophie Romana served as chair of the committee and was aided by consultant Forrest Bell and hydrologist Maggie Mills of FB Environmental.

Romana noted how excited she was about the opportunity presented to the town in that it has received a $1.6 million grant from National Fisheries and Wildlife Foundation to study the river.

“It’s a big deal!” she said. She noted that the town competed against cities from all over the country to get the grant. It will help the town understand the river and its needs. “We could become a poster community,” she said.

She said one goal of the committee will be to answer the question of why the town is looking at this river at this time, and that it is not just about dams including the Montgomery Dam. “What is the problem we’re trying to solve?” she posed as a question.

Committee member Seth Taylor of Rockport said it is a question of how good does the community want the river to be, and what responsibility does it have to the rest of Penobscot Bay when it comes to what comes out of the river and affects the rest of the area.

Bell said the town is studying to determine the health of the river, which has not been measured in detail since 2011. He noted that “data loggers” – devices that measure dissolved oxygen and temperature in the water – have been placed at seven sites along the Megunticook from one at Montgomery Dam to one in the lake itself.

The committee has not yet chosen a vice chair, since it has just begun its work. Much of the first meeting was spent with the committee members sharing a bit about themselves.

Member Susan Todd is a trustee at the Camden Public Library and a Harbor Park Committee member. She said she has lived in Camden since 2001. She is interested in the issues of flooding of the river and the impact of sea level rise.

Deborah Chapman of Washington Street described herself as an environmentalist with a passion for the outdoors. She has worked extensively with Maine’s land trusts.

Courtney Cease, a member or Restore Megunticook, called Camden her “happy place.” She said she is interested in climate solutions and sustainability.

Tyler Smith is an engineer and lifelong Camden resident who has lived both at the lake and downtown. He said he has seen both sides of the issue in that way. He is owner and operator of multiple hotels and commercial businesses in Camden.

Raymond Andresen is a member of Save the Dam Falls and president of Merryspring Nature Center. He noted he retired from working in public relations for General Electric.

Ellen Reynolds owns Drift Oceanside Inn and is a former NOAA fisheries biologist. She recently resigned from her position as executive director at Children’s House Montessori School. She has a degree in environmental science and is interested in human impact on ecosystems.

Seth Taylor of Rockport works at Maine Sport as an outdoor retail manager. He noted that he is a Maine Guide and has a degree in philosophy. He sees the fields as related in that bringing people out into nature to fish gives them a better understanding of the need for protecting the environment.

Lynette (Elphie) Owen is a math teacher at Camden-Rockport Middle School.

Richard Thackeray is a hearing officer for the State of Maine and a SAD 28 board member.