Producer/Host: Amy Browne
Production Assistance: John Greenman
Today we have a special report on the proposal to remove the Orland Dam – a decision that regardless of which way it goes, will likely have impacts not only on that town, but on surrounding areas as well. Orland took over ownership of the dam from Verso in 2011. The dam has been found to have serious structural issues, has failed in the past, and currently salt water flows over the top periodically. It also blocks fish passage and the existing fish ladders are considered inadequate. The town will be voting on June 14th on a ballot question that gives 2 options: Keep the dam and have the town foot any associated costs, or move forward toward removal of the dam by working with NOAA fisheries and the Nature Conservancy to acquire available funding for removal of the dam and ancillary costs. NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the major forces behind the Penobscot River Restoration project. In 2014 they designated the Penobscot River Watershed as a “Habitat Focus Area” — one of just two on the east coast –citing the environmental, cultural and recreational significance of New England’s second largest river, which provides habitat to many migratory fish species, including 3 that are listed as endangered.
Those who oppose removing the dam are concerned about the impact on water front views, which would start changing with the tides, potential impacts of salt water on wells and bridges, and the need to find a new source of water for fire fighting (as the impoundment created by the dam has been used for that purpose)—and whether the grants the town might receive would cover those costs. The need to coordinate dam removal with the clean up of mercury in the river so as to not further mobilize a mercury hotspot just below the dam is also a concern.
At a well-attended forum Wednesday night in Orland, experts who have been studying the issues and agencies offering funding for the project, provided updates and heard comments and questions from the public. The entire presentation last more than 2 hours. This morning we hear from some of the panelists and a few of the public comments.
NOTE: The link to the full meeting (2+ hours in length) is also posted below. The 1st link is for today’s program, the second is the full meeting.