2016-02-26 / Letters

Not willing to gamble home equity

To the editor:

Two weeks ago, John Burrows felt the need to defend himself and the River Alliance from what he felt were personal attacks and the accusation in another letter that the photos in their advertisement – which they copied directly from the Save the Mousam ad the week before – were deceptive. A couple of things are in need of correction from his letter.

1. In disputing assertions that he or the head of Maine Rivers, Landis Hudson, have said or written, it appears that if they are referred to by name, it constitutes a personal attack. Are they not willing to be held accountable for their views and statements like the rest of us? He also complains that the discussion of dam removal has been quite civil until very recently. Perhaps the reason it was so civil was because he and the groups he participates in were the only ones having that discussion.

Now, to their astonishment, they have discovered that not everyone agrees with their perspective. Sorry Mr. Burrows, this is just the nature of a public debate. As the president of a school in Oklahoma recently said (Dr. Everett Piper) to a group of students demanding that the campus be turned into a “safe place” without perspectives they considered to be offensive: “This is not a day-care, this is a university.” Nor is this debate an academic exercise or a game of chess.

The future of the Mousam River and its marvelous habitat known to Kennebunk for well over a century is a very serious topic for many of us and one that is not to be the object of experimentation by a group obsessed with “liberating” the river from the shackles of its cruel captivity to mankind – even though those dams brought industry, prosperity and, most recently, electricity to this town. How inconsiderate of us to wake him up to the wider concerns and interests concerning the Mousam outside of their ecologically myopic bubble.

2. Mr. Burrows: You wrote at length describing your kayak trip down the Mousam during the last draw-down in November to document what a “free-flowing” river will look like after the dams come down. At what point in the draw-down were you paddling down the river? The lighting in the picture you used in your ad seems to indicate the morning or mid-day – that is, toward the beginning or middle of that draw-down, not the end of it, which is when I also took pictures and recorded what I have always seen during drawdowns: an ugly, muddy ditch with only ankle deep water and a stagnant flow. You have also inadvertently confirmed what I have said repeatedly in some of the public meetings: The river draw-downs are the best approximation of what we will get if the River Alliance prevails.

And because the dams are still in place, the other pictures in that ad are, of course, current conditions, not future conditions. If this is what you presented to the readers of the Post to prove what the Mousam will look like after you tear down the dams, then yes, those pictures and your full-page ad in the Post four weeks ago were entirely deceptive.

3. You like to claim that the River Alliance has “hundreds of supporters in the community” all in favor of tearing the dams out, but then qualify that statement by saying that they wish to remain anonymous and are “gun-shy” from identifying themselves because they are afraid of “personal attacks.” An invisible majority of unanimous support for your agenda – how convenient.

Should that be true, we also have hundreds of people (204 signatories to date on our online petition) who want to see the dams remain. Perhaps you would like to go online at www.change.org and search for “support the mousam” and read their comments for yourself.

4. I’m also glad to learn that you and your groups have a sense of humor and can laugh about being described as outside special interest groups. However, you seem to have failed to mention in your letter that the Rivers Alliance is in fact sponsored by and coordinates with Maine Rivers in Yarmouth, with Trout Unlimited –which has five chapters in southern and midcoast Maine (all of which have you listed as one of their staff members), and that you are also the director of New England programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation based in New Brunswick, Canada. Your determination to take down our dams certainly looks like the work of outside special interest groups to me.

For all of these reasons, I believe Mr. Burrows has been less than forthright as he and the River Alliance wage their campaign to “free” the Mousam. Without the dams, what remains of the Mousam (if any) will simply be a matter of three factors: topography, the extent of the Mousam watershed, and the average/anticipated rainfall for any given season or year. None of us has any control over these factors, and therefore it is impossible for him to predict that the Mousam will look any different than the draw-downs once the dams are torn down.

However, reality seems to be irrelevant. As their handbook instructs them: “The perception of an idea such as dam removal is more important than the actual science that backs it up” (see “Removing Small Dams in Maine: A Basic Guide for Project Mangers,” available on The Maine Rivers website). So, like the passage of Obamacare (we had to pass it to find out what’s in it, according to Nancy Pelosi), Mr. Burrows and the River Alliance are telling us that we have to take the dams out first to find out what a free-flowing Mousam will be like.

Sorry, I’m not willing to gamble my home equity and my love for Kennebunk to simply take your word for it. The burden of proof that this will be an environmental triumph rather than an absolute disaster is on you, and you have yet to prove it.

But why confuse the issue with all these facts. It seems that Mr. Burrows and his affiliates prefer shadow boxing and working behind the scenes rather than presenting their intentions to the rest of Kennebunk in a fair and honest dialogue in order to get want they want – after all, it’s certainly far more effective.

Shawn Teague Kennebunk

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