Words on behalf of the Megunticook River

Sun, 03/13/2022 - 7:00pm

The Megunticook River has words flowing in all directions, most about the fate of the Montgomery Dam, which is not in good condition. What is done with this one dam affects the entire river, the lake and Camden. 

Forty-five river restorations have already taken place in Maine with more in process. A few key points rise up relative to our river restoration:

  • There will be a waterfall if the dam is removed.  The river is 15 feet higher than the ocean. The river will flow. Gravity will provide a natural waterfall.

  • The dam was built for yesterday’s climate and industrial needs. It now serves no functional purpose.
  • The dam does what dams do, it dams up the river, raising water levels, increasing flood risk in the area immediately around the dam, our lower downtown area.  This area is a FEMA flood risk zone.
  • Frequent torrential rains are happening and will be our future. Remember the October 31, 2021 storm?  Did you see the flooding?
  • Camden taxpayers pay for staff to maintain the dam and to adjust the gate during rain storms in an attempt to prevent flooding. Adjusting it requires two staff. With increasing torrential rain, adjustments don’t always work. The river flow can overwhelm the capacity of the gates. Debris or ice can jam the gate. The lake, used as a holding area for excess water, has a limit on much water it can hold before the water floods the lake and roads, a tradeoff for flooding downtown.
  • We the taxpayers pay to repair the dam, maintain the dam and for town infrastructure damage caused by flooding. The 2005 Northfield, Vermont, flood from Hurricane Irene resulted in $2 million dollars of damage for a town of 62,000 people. Our town has and will flood.
  • Grant money paid for the Interfluve study. Grant money is available to remove the dam and allow for natural fish passage up the river. The Federal NOAA Infrastructure fund pays for projects “constructing or protecting ecological features that protect coastal communities from flooding or coastal storms and for restoring fish passage by removing in-stream barriers and providing technical assistance.”  No fish, no grant funding. 

We pay a huge price to keep the Montgomery Dam.  Without the dam our flood risk lowers.  A beautiful natural waterfall returns.  River water quality improves. We start the journey for fish to come up the river. We install a historical kiosk to honor the industrial era when dams were used. 

Let’s restore the river for the 21st Century and beyond.

Stephanie Smith lives in Camden