2017-05-26 / Letters

Preserving dams not part of rising costs

To the editor:

In last week’s Kennebunk Post, Mark Cook expressed dismay over how the town has changed over his lifetime and that not all of it is has been positive. He fears the tax rate will become so high that many of us will have to decide if we can still afford to live here. Except for the Waterhouse Center which I feel was a very creative solution to a vacant parcel of land, I couldn’t agree more.

The dubious decisions to proceed with a $75 million expansion to the high school for what I’ve heard to be a declining student population and now a ridiculous $2.7 million for a state-of-the-art dump are the most recent examples of questionable priorities which could seriously burden the town. But his concern that higher taxes will result if we choose to keep our dams is not entirely accurate.

To begin with, our hydro facilities have been paid for by the residents since the town first decided to create hydroelectric generation for street lighting and to power the mills over a century and a half ago. Kennebunk Light and Power District was established to operate and maintain these facilities on our behalf only 66 years ago.

While properly managed and competently maintained, the three dams averaged nearly 2 million kilowatts/year and ran at approximately 70 percent efficiency – significantly offsetting our energy costs and dependence on power off the grid.

Compare that to the 16 percent efficiency of solar installations like the one KLPD just contracted to purchase our power from in order to dispense with our hydro power generation.

In forfeiting its birthright, KLPD is throwing away the hydro facilities that residents have paid for, the savings that ratepayers have benefited from and that we as residents voted overwhelmingly last November to preserve.

In defiance of its own charter and the wishes of their ratepayers to whom they claim to be accountable, KLPD voted last year to surrender their license and filed their Notice of Intent to that effect last month with FERC.

Those of us who adamantly oppose this decision do so out of the conviction that it will cost the town considerably more money by tearing out the dams, forfeiting the savings they provide, the possibility of millions more needed for bank remediation and rectification to drainage infrastructure once the Mousam has been eradicated, the senseless destruction of a well established ecosystem and the very negative impact on property values and tourist dollars. Higher taxes may well be required to make up for all these differences – all for a very foolish, expressly ideological, and romantic fantasy of returning the Mousam to the state we think it was in many centuries ago.

Now that KLPD has surrendered their license, the long local tradition of independent hydroelectric generation will come to an end unless another hydroelectric company who is completely qualified to obtain the license makes an offer to take over and operate the dams; no LLC can simply buy the dams as if they were private property. Absent such an offer, FERC will invariably order the dams out even disregarding the acknowledged historic value of the Kesslen – which is exactly what the 11 environmental special interest groups driving the KLPD to surrender its license have been working for and counting on.

Yes, Mr. Cook, I too am afraid of a spike in taxes and in our electric bills, but it will not be the result of preserving of our dams, our river and the hydroelectric generation it has provided.

It will be the regrettable consequences of a very reckless, selfish and politically motivated board of trustees who voted to throw away our century old yet still very serviceable hydro facilities and our independent, renewable energy production in order to satisfy the demands of the radical environmentalists.

An election is coming up soon. A seat on the KLPD board of trustees is being challenged. It is obviously time for a change. Vote accordingly.

Shawn Teague

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