Ecological, engineering, and economic factors seem to drive the decision of whether to remove a dam to achieve the greater goal of river restoration but public acceptance of change may be the ultimate determining factor. I encourage residents of the Megunticook River watershed, which include not only Camden but Lincolnville and Hope as well, to get educated on this Megunticook River restoration effort. Camden is far behind the curve on this modern environmental thought. There is complete and thorough information including artist renditions on Camden’s town website. Please take some time to review it and envision how spectacular this could be.
Although the dramatic statement “tearing down the historic Montgomery dam” garners attention, the reality here is there has been a shift in public values over the last 50 years. Public perceptions change over time and communities across New England and beyond are shifting their collective desire to have a more natural waterscape as part of their homes. I believe both residents and tourists in Camden would prefer the aesthetic value of a free-flowing river falling down to the sea to that of a cement containment wall that sometimes has the look of a Cancun style infinity pool and other times looks like a cement wall. People across our country have expressed distaste for manmade facilities in otherwise scenic and natural conditions such as Camden Harbor where the Mountains Meet the Sea.
The appropriate scale for decision making and planning is the population of the entire watershed, yet conversations about a specific dam removal are often had without regard to all citizens. Removing dams can improve watershed ecosystems. After dam removal, researchers have documented more robust plants and animals in upper watersheds and estuaries, improved water quality, and increased numbers and diversity of fish. More eagles and loons and angler opportunities would thrill both residents and visitors alike. The small number of business owners that sit above the concrete wall that are opposed to restoring the river have a limited perspective on the large-scale concerns of us all. They just don’t want change. Ever. Now they have hung huge banners all over the Harbor. Hardly an aesthetic choice for anybody. Dam removal can serve as a catalyst for community revitalization and can improve aesthetics, both of which can bring more people to the waterfront. I believe it would be a win win situation.
I ask that we join the next generations of residents who are voicing their concerns for the future of our town’s waterfront. I ask that you read the Watershed School’s editorial. It is well studied and very informative. It is their future. It is in stark contrast to the small Save the Dam group who are, may I say, a part of the older generation and might have Montgomery for their last name. Things have already changed in our environment. No change is not an option anymore. Let’s look to the future and bring our community into the forefront as an example of what can be done for the benefit of all.
Robin Harlow lives in Camden