2016-01-22 / Front Page

Selectmen plan Mousam meeting

Board tentatively sets Tuesday, March 15, as date for dam removal discussion
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Selectmen are mulling a meeting of their own concerning the fate of the three dams on the Mousam River owned and operated by the Kennebunk

Light and Power District.

With relicensing of the dams due in 2022, KLPD must notify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by March 2017 whether it will pursue that option, or else choose to tear down some or all of the dams.

In November, KLPD released the results of an engineering report on its options. Depending on what course is pursued, the final bill could range as high as $1.9 million – an amount described as the net cost after factoring out revenues on the dams. The actual cost could ring in at more than $11.7 million.

At the Dec. 8 selectmen’s meeting, chairman Kevin Donovan said, “I fully anticipate they [KLPD trustees] will decertify the dams and walk away from them.”

KLPD General Manager Todd Shea refuted that scenario is even possible. Still, residents have flooded the inboxes of selectmen on the issue. Examples provided in the board’s Jan. 12 packet were all in favor of keeping the dams in place, which would mean having them relicensed and agreed to federal stipulations, likely to include the cost on constructing fish ladders. A number of environmental groups, including the Maine Rivers and the Mousam and Kennebunk Rivers Alliance, have stumped for removal of the dams.

KLPD has held two public forums on its dam removal decision, but now selectmen plan a session of their own. That event is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, March 15. Selectmen will set an official date at their Jan. 26 meeting.

At that session, the board is likely to hear a review conducted by town planning staffers on the KLPD engineering report. Board members hope the session also will include public dialogue with the KLPD trustees.

“If we’re going into this, we’re going to go into this together,” Selectman Christopher Cluff said. “I don’t want them to shirk their responsibilities off onto us. We’re here to help them with what they need, but it’s their responsibility.”

Donovan said repeatedly during the board’s Jan. 12 meeting that selectmen have no say in the KLPD decision. However, he seemed to believe a decision will be made before November which could put the town in a position to act. If that should happen, he said, it would be townspeople who will have the final word.

“I believe down the road, if they decertify the dams, then we’ll have a discussion as to what the town should do,” Donovan said. “They have to say they are keeping them, or they’re not keeping them, then we can act.

“And it’s going to go out to a town vote,” Donovan said. “The board of selectmen is not going to make any decision other than to send it out to a vote, and I believe the presidential election is the way to do it.”

Several residents spoke on the issue at the Jan. 12 selectmen’s meeting, although Donovan held their comments to the topic of the proposed workshop session.

Still, one resident drew a comment that made it appear selectmen are leading toward a desired outcome.”

“If their final decision is to remove the dams, can they actually accomplish that, and deconstruct the dams before the town can intervene?” asked Larrabee Way resident Lois Copeland.

“I think we have a very good working relationship with Todd Shea and [Trustee President] Jay Kilborne, as well as the other elected officials,” Donovan said. “I do not under any circumstances image that happening.”

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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