2016-04-29 / Letters

Game of truth and consequences

Toward the end of the last KLPD hydro meeting several weeks ago, one of the trustees asked Jonathan Edgerton from Wright-Pierce if he thought the rest of Mousam will look like the section below the Kesslen if all the dams came down. After considerable equivocation, he finally said that he believed so. But before anyone from the Maine Rivers syndicate gets too elated, some caution is advisable for several reasons.

The first is, I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in Edgerton’s opinion given the poor quality of the Wright-Pierce report – even after the fundamental flaws were evaluated, corrected, and submitted to them and the KLPD by members of the Save the Mousam group almost a month ago.

I was at the Feb. 23 hydro meeting when it had to be clarified – much to Edgerton’s embarrassment – that the line item for purchasing power off the grid is erroneous because KLPD doesn’t have to pay for the power that it is generating.

Correspondingly, when projecting the costs for removing the dams, the report failed to consider the revenues that will be lost due to the inability to generate power (opportunity cost). I’m no accountant, but this is obvious even to me.

Now, over the next 46-year licensure period, the least expensive option is to keep the dams and keep generating ($9,921,612).

The most expensive option is for KLPD to bail out and tear them all down ($11,317,179 up to 13.3 million) – -the exact opposite of what Wright-Pierce presented to us.

We can take the economic justification for dam removal off the table right now. If this is strictly a “business” decision as the KLPD repeatedly states, then the matter is settled – Kennebunk keeps her river and her independent source of electricity. If the trustees vote differently, then a hidden agenda or ideology has been driving this process all along and we as the ratepayers are entitled to know what that is and why.

Secondly, did Edgerton respond with an engineering opinion (based on surveys, calcs, and research) or simply a personal opinion to a pointed question that was being pressed?

I would be astonished if Edgerton would be willing to put his P.E. stamp to any statement that would “certify” that the Mousam will look just like the section below the Kesslen once the dams come down.

Thirdly, another glaring deficiency in the work done by Wright-Pierce is the absence of a profile of the river to go along with the cross-sections in the river modeling presentation. The one slide showing a profile is merely a graphic, with no elevations included as there are in the cross-sections. Without a profile, we have only half the picture.

According to the USGS map for Kennebunk, there is a vertical change in elevation of 50 feet over the 6.5 miles from Old Falls to the Kesslen, and then 40 feet over the 2.5 miles from the Kesslen down to Lord’s Point at sea level. If my math is correct, the upper section of the river has an average slope of 1.5 percent. That is half a percent lower than the minimum pitch required for street drainage and any utility, such as sewers and storm drains, which are based on gravity.

The lower section has an average slope of 3 percent – twice the pitch of the longer section above the Kesslen. To visualize what the profile of the river bottom looks like, go into your kitchen and pick up a spatula and hold it parallel to the floor with the blade down. The handle represents the 6.5 miles from Old Falls to the Kesslen, and the blade represents the section from the Kesslen to the sea.

The angle point where the handle meets the blade is the slab of ledge under the Kesslen. This is flat – very flat; like table top flat.

Wet or dry, this river will never be known for a swift current. Knock down the dams, and all the water will rush out leaving only a series of interconnected pools and puddles by shallow ribbons of water and slow moving streams. Even the emblematic section for the River Alliance which is below the Kesslen, could dry up on occasion. It is only after enough water, either from what spills over the top at Old Falls or from a significant rain/runoff event, fills in and fills up these pools that there will be enough volume to spill over the ledge at Main Street and then continue downstream creating the more rapid flow that the River Alliance wants us to believe will be typical for the rest of the Mousam—handle and all. Not likely.

There are many other questions and considerations which cause me to question the integrity of this process and the extent to which the KLPD is complicit in advancing the interests of the syndicate, such as: Why were the comments of ratepayers left out of the final draft; why are the 325 people who signed an online petition in support of keeping the dams being completely ignored; why doesn’t KLPD have the information on relevant property ownership after all these years; why are the concerns of property owners being constantly discarded when there are recent accounts of significant depreciation happening already; why are the hydro facilities not being maintained or not even being utilized on occasion; why was there no line item in the last KLPD budget for the income the dams produce; why was that income considered “not significant” by GM Todd Shea; why are people who supposedly want sustainable, clean energy willing to abandon the dams so quickly? Why does there seem to be a rush to judgment?

Most importantly, what is the real agenda that is at work here? Before it’s too late, maybe it’s time for me and the other 325-plus members of Save the Mousam to remind the KLPD trustees that it is the residents and ratepayers of Kennebunk who own the dams – not the syndicate of outside special interest groups. You were elected to be the custodians of our hydro facilities and you are still “accountable only to the residents and the customers it (the district) serves,” as stated in your own mission statement. I respectfully submit, it’s time to fulfill your mission.

Shawn Teague

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