Funds to fix Seabright Dam discussed for next year's budget

By Susan Mustapich | Oct 11, 2016
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Low water levels in Megunticook River and Lake are keeping the focus on a leak under the powerhouse on the Seabright Dam.

CAMDEN — The 1-inch rainfall Oct. 9 has done nothing to raise water levels in Megunticook River and Lake, according to Camden Wastewater Assistant Engineer John Cummons.

Anything less than a substantial rainfall will have very little impact, he said Oct. 11.

Last September, the water level was very low in the river and lake, but a heavy rain of 7 inches brought the level of Megunticook Lake up 28 inches, according to statistics recorded by Wastewater Department.

On Oct. 4, about 20 residents concerned about low water levels in Megunticook River and Lake heard from the Select Board that fixing leakage at the bottom of Seabright Dam, which some believe contributes to the problem of low water levels in Megunticook River, could be funded in the 2017-2018 budget.

Camden Wastewater Superintendent David Bolstridge was asked by the Select Board to prepare estimates for stopping leakage below the powerhouse at Seabright Dam, which is built on flat, table-sized rocks with water leaking through the cracks between the rocks. Bolstridge explained he has an estimate of around $25,000 for grouting the cracks between the rocks. This is done by divers, and avoids having to drain the river, and is the least expensive option, he said. The Wastewater Department manages the dams to maintain water levels in Megunticook and River and is responsible for Camden's four dams: the East and West Dams, the Seabright Dam and the Montgomery Dam.

Bolstridge was asked to bring estimates for repair to the Seabright Dam back to the Select Board in November. Select Board member John French promised to keep residents advised of developments.

Due to lack of winter snow melt and spring rain this year, controlling water levels in the river and lake has been placed in the hands of Bolstridge and his staff of engineers. Bolstridge reported Oct. 4 that he released more water out of Megunticook River through the East Dam in order to raise water levels in the river. The lake encompasses a much larger area than the river, so a release that marginally lowers the lake raises the river substantially.

Ed Libby, who lives on the river, said he noticed the difference. "Thank you Dave, because the river has come back up 15 inches in the past four to five days."  Libby, who formerly served on the town's dam committee and has worked on the dams, supports the repair on the Seabright Dam.

Libby spoke about an empty river, and having to reassess property values. "It's important to repair the dam. Not only for the fish, but for the tax value," he said.

Mark Wallack, who lives on upper Washington Street, said the river level has dropped "precipitously," but at the harbor, "Montgomery Dam seems to have plenty of water." He said a woman who has lived on the river since 1947 has never seen the river this low. He said that on the river, "only two floats were actually floating. The other floats were on the mud flats." He said it was disheartening to see "tons and tons" of water flowing over the falls downtown.

Select Board member Don White said he was astounded to see lily pads on dry land when he attended the grand opening of the new section of the Riverwalk below the Seabright Dam on Sept. 10.

French asked if grouting the leak under the powerhouse would push the leakage out to another part of the dam.

This year, rainfall from April through September totals 16.1 inches, compared with 25 inches from May through September 2015, according to statistics kept by the Camden Wastewater Department.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at

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