2016-06-17 / Letters

Analysis shifts discussion from conjecture to fact

To the editor: As a senior at Kennebunk High School, I completed my senior project with the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, examining comments submitted to the Kennebunk Light and Power District regarding dam relicensing. Sources of information that address the concerns were identified to increase understanding of the possible effects of dam removal on the Mousam River.

The most common concern, 15 percent of 232 total comments, was the loss of the river’s aesthetic. This encompasses the fear of a drawdown-like future, smell, and more visible mud. Approximately 55 percent of comments discussed either this, decreased river recreation, harm to the wetlands or the possible reduction of property values.

Information provided by the KLPD can resolve all of these concerns, except the property value one. Commentary provided by a researcher at Bates College alleviated this.

Concerning the changing aesthetic: as General Manager Todd Shea said at a public meeting, some of the draw-downs are falsely portrayed as what the river would be, but it is “artificially lowered” because the flow of the river was cut off. While the average elevation of the water will decrease, flow will vary seasonally like any other natural system. Additionally, the depictions published by Wright-Pierce do not show the river at its highest volume, but during July when flow volumes historically are low, so these depictions are at the lowest possible state for the river.

Concerning river recreation: Flow and water depth will vary seasonally. High spring flows will increase water level, allowing for whitewater canoeing and kayaking. During a drawdown, my Kennebunk High gym class was able to canoe in the Mousam. According to the Wright- Pierce Report, on the Penobscot River after two dams were removed, increased recreational use was observed as boaters were attracted to the more dynamic river. A similar effect could be seen on the Mousam.

Concerning harm to wetlands: Areas of wetland will evolve into upland habitats, but new wetlands will likely be formed as well, according to the Wright-Pierce Report. The natural flow variances can cleanse or “flush” new and remaining wetlands, improving the health of these systems. With this, the amount of wetland animals could increase, prompting an increase in larger wildlife.

Concerning property values: Several peer-reviewed studies, brought to the KLPD’s attention by Bates professor Dr. Lynne Lewis, indicate that homes abutting impoundments gain no additional value from the dammed river. These studies also show that with river restoration, property value can increase.

My complete analysis on all concerns is available at wellsreserve.org/carroll.

It’s my hope this analysis will allow the conversation to shift from conjecture to fact.

Beth Carroll, senior
Kennebunk High School

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