2015-11-27 / Letters

Restored river can enhance quality of place

To the editor:

As all residents of Kennebunk surely are aware, our local utility, Kennebunk Light and Power, is facing a big decision regarding the future of the three dams that they own and operate on the Mousam River. Its decision will have an impact on the quality of life in town not only for current residents, but for generations to come.

The several public meetings about this issue that have been held in recent months indicate that it is a decision that will not be made in haste. There clearly is a diversity of opinion within the community, and while there will never be unanimous agreement on what path to take, we hope that the ultimate decision will be one that serves to benefit the greatest number of people with respect to economic, environmental, social, and recreational considerations.

We live on a section of the Mousam River that is upriver from all three of the district’s dams. As such, we are among the few dozen citizens on whom the removal of the dams would have the greatest impact. We offer our perspective as people who greatly appreciate and value where we live and what we experience as property owners along the Mousam.

We also understand that what happens will have impact far beyond the banks of the river that runs through our backyard. It is from this perspective that we strongly support removing all three dams on the river and returning the Mousam to its natural, free-flowing condition.

If the dams are removed, our views of the river will change, and the ways that we experience the river will change. We certainly like what we have now – the opportunity to own a small bit of river frontage was a big factor in our decision to purchase our property – but we believe that we would also like what we would have in the future were the Mousam to be restored to a free-flowing state. Indeed, we’ve always been more than a little disappointed that there is not free passage between West Kennebunk and the ocean

Like many others, we enjoy the opportunity to see ducks, herons, beaver, otters and the other forms of wildlife that inhabit the riparian environment of the Mousam.

Some residents have expressed concerns that the loss of the impoundment ponds that would come with the removal of the dams would also result in loss of the current wildlife. Although I am strictly an amateur naturalist, I have spent enough time in my life observing the natural world to be confident that these fears are groundless, that wildlife would adapt to the changed conditions just fine.

The Mousam River existed for millennia before the first dams were built and the river was drowned by the impoundments. The native fish, birds and other wildlife of the Mousam watershed evolved in a free-flowing river environment, and these species will all thrive if the dams are removed.

Our understanding is that this has been the experience in other locations across Maine, and in many other places across the country where dams have come down in recent decades.

An unobstructed river and healthy riparian zone will reconnect a variety of unique ecosystems and conserved lands in the lower watershed, making the Mousam an exceptionally valuable natural asset for our community that will support new recreational opportunities from Old Falls to Parson’s Beach.

We don’t think that our property values will be negatively impacted by the loss of the dams and their impoundments. We understand the fear and concern that others have about this, but the economic literature on the matter demonstrates that at worst the loss of the impoundments will have no impact on property values and will likely have a positive impact.

On balance, we think it is better to live next to a natural, free-flowing river rather than a man-made quasi-lake.

We believe that a restored river can enhance the quality of life, and quality of place, for all residents of Kennebunk. Most importantly, we think that restoring the Mousam River would be an incredible gift for future generations.

Paul and Sally Wells
West Kennebunk

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