2016-04-15 / Letters

More and more decisions that affect daily life made elsewhere

To the editor:

I grew up in a small town that had a weekly newspaper and I appreciate Duke Harrington’s extensive coverage of the KPLD dam meeting and your printing of two well-written dam letters. This is a very complex situation, so much so that the eventual resolution might satisfy no one.

That being said, following are my comments.

Susan Bloomfield wrote a lovely, lyrical letter describing the abundance the restoration of a natural course for the Mousam will bring and she doubts that the value of the adjacent properties will decline. My response: Most homeowners, including myself, prefer to be adjacent to an actual river than to a floodplain.

As far as, “settling into a natural, meandering channel,” that original channel was changed 150 years ago. Who is to say and who has the right to determine what that channel is supposed to look like 150 years after the fact? How many years will it take to replace the lovely, successful eco-system that is there now with today’s “riverine ecology” while homeowners and visitors alike will have a muddy mess to look at? What will happen when 150 years accumulation of silt, thousands of tons of it, goes rushing downstream? How badly will the fauna and flora at the mouth of the river be damaged?

I know what I have seen as a couple of beaver dams transformed my Batson River area from a swamp part of the year, a muddy ditch at other times and flooding two of my acres once in a while, into a lovely, slow moving small river with accompanying natural aquatic life.

I respect the KPLD board for working to benefit many, but at the meeting, I had the impression that not all of them had been informed about the many complexities and decisions that lie ahead. Since votes do not have to be taken immediately, they have time to consider more options which brings up another question: Isn’t it an advantage to have a local power company owned by its ratepayers, so that company will then be more responsive to the locale which it serves?

In this world of mega-companies and impersonal commerce, shouldn’t we expect a local outfit to have, in addition to protecting the stability of the company, a responsibility to the welfare and history of the community which it serves; in this case a responsibility that supersedes the amount of dollars involved?

Speaking of history, it is ironic that when we lived in the historic district at 29 Summer St., any exterior home renovations, including what color we were going to paint our house, needed town approval. And here we are, with little local government resistance that I have heard about, discussing the removal of a major 150-year-old facility that not only adds to downtown’s ambience but also represents some of the industrial history of the community. So what comes next?

Removing the dam on the lower Batson near Mills Road (Route 9), destroying a swimming hole used by generations and shrinking the lovely idyllic river meandering through the upstream trust property? How about getting rid of the North River Dam between Biddeford & Saco? What about changing the ambience of Sanford/ Spring Lake by removing some of the man-made embankments, channels, etc. that have been there since it was a mill town and lowering Estes Lake by 4 feet?

It’s easy to look at a wall map of Maine, see all the rivers and dams and decide that something must be done. Our society has become such that more and more decisions affecting our daily lives are made elsewhere. Just look to Flint, Michigan, and Oklahoma fracking earthquakes as two of the most egregious examples. But, an aroused citizenry can still make a difference. When the members/employees of a nonprofit allow their crusading zeal, egos and professional futures to influence their actions, they tend to lose sight of what is important to the community within which the target of the month exists.

It happens to many groups, no matter how well-meaning, as their focus becomes narrower and the cause becomes all important. I never thought I would oppose anything the Sierra Club espouses, but the Mousam has no snail darters about to become extinct; there are no PCBs like the ones GE dumped into the Hudson; there are no swamps with stagnant pools, etc. There is a thriving 150-year-old environment that should be allowed to continue extant. Maine’s dams are our versions of Vermont’s covered bridges; we are a river-run state with an extensive coastline. Do not lose site of Maine’s heritage, please.

Tom Murphy’s excellent, informative letter (everyone write Sens. King and Collins) raises one point that I don’t understand: If our dams were mistakenly registered in the wrong category, such mistake causing greater complications and expense, has anyone explored getting them re-registered in the right category, thereby lightening the load? Second, I know there are all kinds of jurisdictional problems. But if the town manager and selectmen could float a bond issue that changed a boring Route 1 into a friendly, tree-lined main drag, maybe they should involve themselves in the dams, take a little pressure off the dam trustees, stand up for Kennebunk’s history, declare that the dams are in a historic district, get involved, publicly and privately.

Last, why destroy the dams? Is it to save each ratepayer a few dollars a year, justifying your trusteeship by concentrating only on the bottom line, or is it to increase the amount of eels and alewives in the Gulf of Maine? Or, so that maybe someday a few salmon will have genetic memories of their antecedents swimming up the Mousam? Huh? Please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Lou Miller
Kennebunkport

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