2015-10-02 / Letters

A plea for Mousam River balance

To the editor:

The Kennebunk Light and Power District faces a decision about relicensing the Mousam River dams by 2022 — an intention that must be filed in 2017.

We fear they favor the demolition of up to three dams along the river to avoid costs and an arduous bureaucratic process. This includes the Kesslen Dam, the one under the newly renovated bridge in the heart of town, Twine Mill and Dane Perkins dams.

We understand the investment in relicensing is big in money and time, and really for very little return since KLP is not in the business of producing electricity.

We also understand that KLP has been talking with the Maine River Alliance, the Sierra Club and other fish-friendly folks who have jumped on the bandwagon to get rid of the dams.

After all, the dams prevent five species of fish from getting up river to spawn. These folks offer strong support to the “Free the Mousam” movement. After all, dams are a thing of the past — no longer useful and so ecologically unsound.

Do we have a vested interest in this decision? You bet. As property owners of one of the most beautiful vistas along the Mousam, we are amazed and troubled by this option with what we perceive to be its devastating consequences.

We need to remind KLP and all the citizens of Kennebunk that there are many stakeholders in this decision, and that if a decision is made to destroy the dams, the consequences will be irreversible.

Who are the stakeholders? We would suggest each and every one of us who live in this wonderful town.

Certainly, we river property owners are high on the list. How will our property values be affected? Please remember, neighbors, that when one piece of property is devalued, it often decreases the value of the abutters.

Who will want to live next to 1.9 feet of water in the summer when the sun roasts the mud and silt and penetrates all the rotting trees and vegetation at the river’s bottom? Did you get a whiff from the river when the water level was lowered last year for the study? We did. How will that smell enhance the environment around Duffy’s and Main Street? And what if hazardous waste is discovered in that sediment? How expensive will that be to remove and who will pay for it? Will it be hauled out over private property?

What about all the people who love to kayak and canoe along the river? That is a summertime activity when the water level will be at its lowest.

Do you think tourism might be affected — no water sports and no falls to observe from the gazebo? Also, what about all the plants and animals that have adapted over the last 200 years and now abound along the Mousam?

In our backyard alone, we have bald and golden eagles hunting, snapping turtles lay their nests, foxes, porcupines, fishers, beavers, herons, salamanders, ducks, deer, hawks, and even the bears find their sustenance.

What will they do when the river becomes a stream or mud puddle? We actually heard some of the experts say, “… don’t believe the Wright-Pierce forecasts of the post-demolition water levels.” Really? (Please check out the before/after pictures on the KLP website under Hydro Facilities; then scroll to Related Documents for the March 31, 2015 meeting.)

So, here are our suggestions. Let’s try to go for a win/win/win. If KLP wants to offload these dams to save money, could we find some other way to maintain them? Recent inspections say they are in good shape.

Demolition will not be cheap nor will hazardous waste removal. We who consume KLP’s power are going to get the bill either way. Perhaps ownership of all three dams could be transferred to the town; perhaps some of our town’s reserve or surplus funds could cover the maintenance costs.

Kennebunk is very resourceful and creative when it comes to funding what is deemed a plus to the town.

We think the Mousam River with water in it is a plus. We personally would be happy to contribute some of our ever-increasing taxes to this purpose. Perhaps we can fundraise — the dams have historical value, so maybe town philanthropists would donate and the Brick Museum could offer dam/mill tours like a smaller version of the park in Lowell, Massachuseets. KLP wins by getting out of the business of dam maintenance and its liabilities. Then let’s find resources to install fish ladders.

The River Alliance and the fish they represent win because four out of five fish species can then make it up river; they may even have deep enough water to swim in. (To the shad, we extend our deepest apologies.) Finally, a win for property owners, water sport enthusiasts, residents and all the animals that draw their life and inspiration from the Mousam River as it is. Let’s not “Free the Mousam.” Let’s “Save the Mousam.”

Two final pleas: Trustees, as you consider this issue, please keep balance in mind. Remember that KLP is a, “Consumer-owned not for profit electric distribution company that is accountable only to the residents and the customers it serves.” (KLP website) In fact, perhaps we the consumers should make the decision by voting on the issue.

Second, for those of you who desire a better solution than dam demolition, we need to make our voices heard.

Please contact us if you want to meet and help contribute constructively, creatively and quickly to this discussion before the decision is made.

Shawn and Donna Teague
teagues@gwi.net, 985-5995

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