2015-08-28 / Front Page

Dam removal creates divide

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer


The Goff Mill Brook dam in Arundel, built with permission of the town in the middle of the last century by an abutting property owner in order to create a swimming hole for his children, is now at the center of debate between the Wells Reserve and residents. The reserve applied to remove it to improve fish runs, but local residents claim removing the dam would actually destroy habitat for fish, birds and animals that have adapted to the structure. (Courtesy photo) The Goff Mill Brook dam in Arundel, built with permission of the town in the middle of the last century by an abutting property owner in order to create a swimming hole for his children, is now at the center of debate between the Wells Reserve and residents. The reserve applied to remove it to improve fish runs, but local residents claim removing the dam would actually destroy habitat for fish, birds and animals that have adapted to the structure. (Courtesy photo) ARUNDEL — Given the heated debate that’s dogged the possible removal of three power-producing dams on the Mousam River, many might have presumed the question of taking out one small blockage on Goff Mill Brook in Arundel, built for the sole purpose of creating a swimming hole, might escape controversy.

“It sounds like they’re trying to grab some of the stuff that Kennebunk’s going through, but it’s kind of a totally different ballpark, from what I can tell,” Chairman Jason Nedeau said at the Aug. 10 selectmen’s meeting.

“Does anybody really care one way or the other?” asked Selectman Velma Jones Hayes.

Well, apparently, the answer is yes. Two days after that exchange, on Aug. 13, residents living near the rock dam — which is located a few hundred yards up the brook from where it crosses River Road, across from Cape Arundel golf course — turned out to argue removal will do more harm than good.

About 30 residents showed up for the public hearing, held in the gymnasium of the Mildred L. Day school to accommodate the crowd.

“There’s lots of active habitat that happens here now. This is a very vibrant environment,” said Judy Andrews, as she rattled off a list of fish, birds and animals she’s seen from her adjacent property. “We very much oppose the removal of that dam. We would not want to see that waterway diminished.

“Frankly, I’d like to see it repaired. Not removed — repaired,” Andrews said.

“It’s been around for a long time, please just leave it,” agreed John Lynch, who said he grew up less than a mile from the dam. “Just leave it alone and let nature take its course.”

Like several who spoke, Lynch questioned whether removing the dam would do more harm than good, by diminishing the flow of the brook and disrupting the wildlife that calls the area home.

“There hasn’t been any study on the impact of the environment above the dam, other than an assertion of ‘proven science’ that removal of dams is good,” said River Road resident Chip Bassett.

However, the Wells Reserve has applied to take out the dam in order to aid the migration of fish and eel from the Kennebunk River.

Goff Mill Brook, measuring 8 miles long, is the largest tributary of the Kennebunk River.

“We know that this project will have these benefits for not only the small section of stream, but the entire watershed,” said Jacob Aman, a preserve employee who is acting as the agent before the planning board for Mary Castor, who is said to own the damn.

Although waterways are generally held in trust by the state, Castor’s deed says she owns to the “opposite bank” of the brook, while the property owner on that side has a deed that draws the line at the “high water line” of the near side.

“From birders to fisherman, from people who watch wildlife, from people who like to catch wildlife, this project would be a benefit,” Wells Reserve Director Paul Dest said.

Despite the opposition, tensions grew most evident in an exchange between Aman and the planning board, whose members peppered him with questions.

Aman asked the board to use the preserve’s application fee to hire an expert, to help them understand his presentation.

“I’m being asked to continually repeat myself and provide information that you have no way to evaluate,” Aman said. “You continue to ask me questions based on your opinions. If you need to find an expert to help you interpret that information, isn’t that what the $500 is for?”

Meanwhile, Castor said she doubted her father had alewives in mind when, in the mid-1950s and with the approval of the planning board, he poured the cement to create the 25-foot-wide dam.

“He just wanted to create a place for us to swim, but now I really do want to do the right thing for the stream, the wildlife, and the people,” she said. “I’m just really concerned about making the right decision. There are lots of important points on both sides.”

The planning board was scheduled to take up the issue of the dam again at its Aug. 27 meeting, held after the deadline for this week’s Post.

Town Planner Ted Redway said Tuesday it was unclear which way the planning board might lean at that session, or if it would be prepared to conduct a final vote at all.

Return to top