Lincolnville board wants new dam agreement

By Susan Mustapich | Sep 10, 2019
Photo by: Susan Mustapich The East and West Dams in the Megunticook watershed support the recreational and real estate values of bodies of water including Norton Pond in Lincolnville.

LINCOLNVILLE — The Lincolnville Board of Selectmen wants a review of its role and responsibilities for operation and repair costs of the East and West Dams around Lake Megunticook, in light of Camden's plans to study the feasibility of adding fish passage systems to the dams.

In a June 8 letter addressed to Camden Select Board members Marc Ratner and Taylor Benzi, Lincolnville Selectman David Barrows refers to the "decades old policy" of sharing "the cost of routine upkeep and repair of these dams" with Camden paying two thirds of the cost and the Lincolnville paying one third. Ratner and Benzi are also liaisons to Camden's Megunticook Dams Advisory Committee.

Once used to power industry along the Megunticook watershed, the East and West Dams now control the water levels in Lake Megunticook in Camden and Norton Pond in Lincolnville. The West Dam is generally static, while the East Dam is adjusted as needed to maintain water levels. An emergency repair to replace the gate in the West Dam is currently in the works.

Barrows' letter, on behalf of the Lincolnville selectmen, calls for review of the agreement between the towns in light of Camden's discussions about reconstruction or modification of the East and West Dams, plans to borrow funds for these projects and that the town of Camden may plan to ask Lincolnville to repay a third of the loan.

Among other concerns, the June 8 letter asks for a reexamination of how future dam work plans are established, cost sharing and resolution of differences

Camden Town Administrator Audra Caler-Bell suggests in her Aug. 19 response to Barrow that the two towns "schedule a meeting with a representative or representatives from each Board along with David Kinney [Lincolnville town administrator] and I."

She states that "Camden has no intention of passing along the cost of any fish passage project to the Town of Lincolnville." She goes on to state that the current need to repair the West Dam is an emergency and has nothing to do with fish passage. She explains that the East and West Dams were built for different purposes than what they are now used for, and have been compromised by past repairs that are "not up to code." She adds that the emergency requires "a status quo repair," and does not allow time for exploring options that might improve "the health of the watershed."

Lincolnville board members who discussed Caler-Bell's letter Sept. 9 agreed that they were not satisfied.

They agreed that they prefer a joint meeting of the two town boards of elected officials, because they do not operate by sending representatives to meetings, and that until the reexamination of the dam agreement takes place, as stated in their letter, they will not commit to paying for dam upkeep and repair.

Referring to the list of requests made in the letter, Selectman Keryn Laite said, "I don't know how either town can move forward honestly without defining those for us."

Selectman Ladleah Dunn said that "our statement of contributing nothing financially until those are explicitly defined" perhaps needed to be made clearer.

Selectman Jon Fishman agreed with the requests stated in the letter, and to clarifying that "We're not putting any money into this until those things are defined, and we aren't going by this decades-old policy anymore."

"We cannot be responsible or held hostage by a previous document that was written on a napkin," Laite said.

Selectmen asked Barrows and Kinney to follow up on the discussion.

Laite motioned "that the board delegate the task of communicating to the town of Camden our concerns regarding the oversight and operations of the East and West Dams to David Barrows and the town administrator."

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