Supporting restoration of the Megunticook River

Tue, 08/17/2021 - 4:15pm

I’ve been intimately involved in dam removal in one Maine river (the Penobscot- with two removals and one natural by-pass) and installing hydropower in another (Sandy Stream in Freedom).  Every river needs to be individually examined to determine what it can best do to contribute to the resilience of our environment. 

I believe Camden now has an exciting opportunity, thoughtfully developed by the hard work of the Town Manager and the Select Board, who have thankfully focused on the long term health of our community, to enhance Camden’s safety, beauty and environment while reducing our municipal expenses.

The discussion of the broader opportunity has been hijacked by a few business owners who do not want to see any change in the Montgomery Dam.  (One simply stated in an open forum: “I am against change”).  They have been heard, but their views alone should not determine the future of the entire Megunticook watershed.

Restoration can be accomplished with the help of significant outside resources with no impact on the water levels of Megunticook Lake or at Shirttail Point.  However, the whole project will fail if the Montgomery Dam is not removed so as to allow natural fish passage.  

The benefits of river restoration are significant:

• Flood control: critical protection of properties along the river’s entire course at a time when climate change is causing more frequent and severe flooding events, 

• Species restoration: the return of alewives and other native species to the watershed, 

• Reduction in the Town’s costs for continual maintenance,

• Recreation opportunities along the river, 

• Beautification of Camden Harbor with a return to natural water falls over granite ledges (most people find that a natural waterfall is far more beautiful than a man-made one over a concrete barrier), and

• Coordinating river restoration with a long-term solution to the issues presented by sea level rise in the harbor.

I anxiously await the completion of a study (by InterFluve) of the Megunticook commissioned by the town and paid for by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and NOAA.  That study will lay out the details surrounding each dam site and the costs of alternatives for restoring the Megunticook.  The majority of the costs for restoration can be obtained from outside sources with an interest in river restoration. The costs incurred from not restoring the natural flows will be born by Camden taxpayers.

I support restoration of the Megunticook River (including removal of the Montgomery Dam) and urge Camden residents to get engaged and understand the issues.

Tony Grassi lives in Camden