2016-05-13 / Letters

Dams on Kennebunk River, the least we can do

To the editor:

Some residents of Arundel are willing to help Kennebunk’s taxpayers by withdrawing from the school district. Let’s return the favor by damming the Kennebunk River.

As many letters have pointed out, removing dams from the Mousam River would destroy it by reducing the flow and making it ugly and quiet. This suggests a cure for the unsightly, muddy trickle between our towns. A dam would make the Kennebunk River more watery, less muddy, and more beautiful while adding waterfall sound effects.

Inevitably, some people would be opposed to building a dam. Abutting property owners would complain that their property is getting inundated. Environmentalists and fishermen would say the same thing about the riparian habitat and fishing holes. Anadromous fish and other outside special interest groups would complain about the loss of potential spawning ground. As Judy and John Andrews pointed out, you might go a whole winter without seeing much wildlife there. But within a hundred years, the new impoundment would seem normal, and everybody would forget that things were ever any different.

People have accused the KLPD of a lack of transparency, since it only gave us six-and-a-half years to discuss the future of its dams. To make sure everybody has a say in the new dam, we’ll debate it for at least 10 years.

Another mistake the KLPD made was paying engineers to conduct a study. We have plenty of local experts who are willing to do that work for free. They’ve already refuted every paragraph and illustration in the KLPD’s study. As Lou Miller pointed out, Shawn Teague and Ward Hansen wrote letters that are full of details about the sloppy engineering. Teague explained how, paradoxically, removing the dams would cause the river to stop flowing. The river would lack the wherewithal to overcome a rock outcrop, which would be almost as hard as going over a dam, and all that water would evaporate. I have a degree in hydrology, but I’m still wrapping my head around it. Hansen said he doesn’t believe the KLPD’s study, because one of the cost estimates changed between one version and the next. That must mean the whole study is garbage. Miller suggests that the next step is to hire a lawyer to sue the KLPD and the engineers.

One might think that the first step in refuting an engineering study is to hire an engineer, but these people have such an intuitive grasp of economics and hydrology that they can skip that step and go right to the lawyer.

Let’s also be sure not to hire any scientists. Ward Hansen has twice cited a 2012 article about the failed attempt to restore Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River watershed. The article doesn’t mention removing dams, but it does mention fish ladders. That means we can still keep the out-of-town fish away even if we build a fish ladder. We’d have to be vigilant, though, because some salmon showed up in the Connecticut River in 2015. More importantly, the article shows that scientists don’t know what they’re talking about, so we should rely on anecdote, intuition, and our local echo chamber.

As Judy and John Andrews have noted, dams also help prevent sea level rise. We could prevent a foot of sea level rise by inundating the earth’s land area to an average depth of two-and-a-half feet, at which point we would no longer care if the ocean was rising. Damming the Kennebunk River could be the first step.

You can see that all the arguments for keeping the Mousam River dams point to the advantages of building a new dam. Beautifying the Kennebunk River is the least we can do for our neighbors in Arundel, who are willing to sacrifice their tax dollars, property values and quality of education to lower our taxes.

Jason Wise

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