2016-06-10 / Letters

Mousam River dams

To the editor:

Looks like the fix is in. Acting more like a CEO than a trustee of a public utility, Jay Kilbourn now appears to be pressuring the rest of the trustees to give him what he wants: a vote to decommission our dams and release them for demolition.

Keen on the prospect of replacing our hydro facilities with power purchased from a private solar company, the KLPD now seems comfortable viewing itself no longer as a power producer but simply as a power provider. This will make the Maine Rivers Syndicate very happy. They probably already have a case of champagne in the ice buckets for their imminent victory. This also confirms the effectiveness of their strategy as described on page 5 of their dam removal manifesto: if the dam and impoundment is currently serving a purpose, replace the dam use by other means. ( http://mainerivers.org/ wp-content/uploads/2009/05/Dam-Project- Manager-GuideME-copy.pdf )

Kilbourn is clearly the MKRA’s man. And they will no doubt reward him with their adulation and support as he now sets his sights on a seat in the state Senate. Using the KLPD as a stepping stone to higher office, Kilbourn’s self-esteem now seems ready for the challenge. Big egos come in handy for politicians, but not for public servants. Which one is he? Perhaps there may not be capital domes high enough or rotundas wide enough to accommodate Kilbourn’s aspirations.

However, before he tears down our dams and runs off to Augusta, I would like to offer a rebuttal to his oration in the last public hydro meeting. He began by stating that KLPD’s Charter makes no mention of fish or theories of river ecology – but then for the next 20minutes he proceeded to talk about nothing else and elaborate upon the Syndicate’s talking points. This was Kilbourn’s pontifical address – the transcript of which appeared as a special article in the Village by invitation from Faith Gillman, who happens to be a member of MKRA and Wells Reserve, according to her profile on Facebook. Timing is everything.

In his oration and transcript, Kilbourn audaciously characterizes his reasoning as facts. At the last KLPD business meeting, VP Wayne Berry correctly defined them as considered opinions, and not representing those of the rest of the trustees. Let the dissection begin.

1. It will cost almost $1 million to relicense and close to $16 million to remove over the next 46 years, not the other way around as Kilbourn stubbornly maintains – and this does not even take into consideration the very real possibility of stranded costs that the Public Utilities Commission might require and will determine if the KLPD votes to demolish the hydro facilities that were installed and maintained with tax dollars by the residents of Kennebunk over the last 125 years. This could add even more millions to the cost of dam removal, in addition to the lost revenue they currently supply.

2. The recent veto of L.D. 1649 by Gov. LePage has caused many towns and cities to abruptly curtail their plans to switch over to solar power. The basis for his veto was that these solar companies want a quicker return on their investments which results in significantly higher energy rates. Those rates would be quite a boost to the solar industry’s income, but not necessarily for ours. Without our dams, 100 percent of our power will be purchased from others; KLPD will become just a junior retailer compared to CMP (Portland Press Herald, May 18, 2016.)

3. Fish ladders simply don’t work. Then why has the syndicate assured the Estes Lake Association that they can have one at Old Falls – except for the fact that its President Fred Frodyma is also a member of the Rivers Alliance? Fish ladders are now irrelevant; the Alden addendum to the 2011 Wright-Pierce Report concludes that there are not enough fish in the Mousam, now or potentially in the future, to even warrant fish ladders.

4. Our photographs of drawdown conditions are erroneous in predicting the results of dam removal. Really? And what do they offer instead? Poems in public meetings, photos of existing conditions (i.e. the dams are still here) of the Mousam below the Kesslen as make believe conditions for the rest of the river, and computerized photo simulations. How scientific. Truth is, they have no idea what it will really be like until after the dams come down—but then it’s too late.

5. Kilbourn strays from the syndicate’s narrative by acknowledging that real estate values will take a hit in the short term, but over time, property values likely will not suffer. In other words: too bad, just live with it; in any conflict there will be unavoidable casualties. And how long before he thinks values might recover – after the current residents are dead? How comforting. In their due diligence on this matter, the trustees have yet to engage any local realtor or appraiser to learn the extent to which dam removal will impact the 209 waterfront properties that will no longer be waterfront. It sure is much easier to sign a declaration of war when it’s somebody else’s son who will be sent to the front lines.

As this process goes on, only one thing seems be transparent: that Kilbourn and the River Alliance are joined at the hip, and have been for some time. By and large, the members of the syndicate are self-satisfied, self righteous people who think that they know what is best for everybody; they don’t seem to care about anyone or anything beyond their Holy Grail of river emancipation. In this debate, I’ve learned that civility for them means: We’re right, you’re wrong; we can talk, you have to listen. If you disagree with them, it’s hate speech. And with incidents of our signs and posters being taken down or attempted defacement, it appears that only they have freedom of speech. So much for democracy. This is totalitarian environmentalism. And if their agenda is so reasonable and scientific, why do they have to resort to power politics to get what they want? This nasty drama has been played out before in other towns, and now its Kennebunk’s turn.

With the upcoming election and decision before the KLPD Trustees, the very existence of the Mousam River and a century of Kennebunk’s independent hydropower generation is on the line. A decision of this magnitude cannot be done without all the facts and longterm consequences before us, not just speculations, outside special interests, or underhanded power politics.

Shawn Teague

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