2015-11-20 / Letters

Dam removal economically, environmentally right

To the editor:

The Kennebunk Light and Power District is nearing a decision about whether to keep or remove their three dams on the Mousam River. The decision as we see it will impact our community in three ways: economically, environmentally and recreationally. Not knowing fully how dam removal might affect these, we turned to the engineer’s report that was just released by the district.

We were inclined to support the removal of dams before the report came out. Now we are firmly in favor of doing so.

As ratepayers, we wondered about the impact of removing the dams on our electric bill. The report notes that the least expensive option is to remove the dams. Removing the dams would also negate the need for future maintenance and repairs, and would eliminate any risk of liability due to dam ownership.

As property owners along the Mousam, we worried that the flow of the river might increase when the dams were removed, undermining the riverbank. The report says most of the riverbank will not be affected.

With the river running behind our house, we also wondered about the effect of removing the dams on wildlife and their habitat along the river. We had heard that dam removal would allow the fish to run free. Indeed, studies of other rivers where dams have been removed have confirmed this point.

What we had not been aware of until reading the report was that the wetlands along the river would become healthier, that the river’s water quality would be enhanced, and that the wildlife along the Mousam would increase if the dams were removed.

We like the fact that water quality will improve in the river and that many acres of riparian forest habitat will be reclaimed. We like that these riparian areas will provide more habitat to the wildlife we now enjoy and will greatly improve the ability of everything from turtles to deer to migrate up and down the river corridor.

We look forward to the return of river herring, shad and other fish species, and the coinciding increase in mink, otter, eagles and osprey that will accompany them.

We also appreciate that the increase in shad and river herring in the Mousam will have benefits that extend into the Gulf of Maine as they will provide food for economically and ecologically important species like striped bass, bluefish, cod, haddock and whales. Finally, your free flowing river could someday provide a sustainable source of bait for our local lobster fishermen.

We believe that a Mousam returned to its original state can enhance the quality of life we have and can also enhance the quality of place in Kennebunk. A wild river running through the center of town can certainly be beautiful, as beautiful as the view downstream from Route 1.

As residents who live on the Mousam, we are keenly interested in the fate of the river and the impact on our backyard. But in the end we hope that the decision about what to do with the dams will be one that benefits the greatest number of people with respect to economic, environmental, social, and recreational considerations. We believe the removal of the dams will do just that.

Jennifer Shack, John Brennan

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