Committee organizes to help resolve dam issue

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HARTFORD – Five boards convened Thursday to organize a committee charged with finding solutions to a damaged private dam on Lake Anasagunticook that’s been ordered open for fear it could be breached.

The opening of the dam in May, ordered by Gen. John W. Libby, commissioner of the state Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, has caused the lake’s water level to drop dramatically, and officials have had to contend with irate homeowners who no longer have waterfront property.

The committee created Thursday consists of Hartford selectmen David Bowen, Hope McCabe and Lee Holman; Canton selectmen Rick Ray, Jackie Conant, Lisa Cummings and Brian Jordan; Lake Association members Judy Hamilton and John Convey; Canton Water District’s Debbie Hutchins and John Cronin; and Canton Sewer District’s Donald Hutchins. Other members are Malcolm Ray, Paul Bernier, Robert Turnbull and Mike Poulin.

Protecting the water quality and health of the lake should be the new committee’s primary goal, said Canton Selectman Rick Ray. Already, he said, people are complaining that their lakefront property is becoming a frog pond.

The lake is healthy now, Ray said, but in Whitney Brook that feeds the lake, fish are dying because the low water prevents them from getting back into the lake.

Of immediate concern is the possibility of constructing a cofferdam. Mike Ranhoff, a concerned citizen, said he and dam committee member Paul Bernier have been working for the past month with the state Department of Environmental Protection to get a permit to put in a cofferdam at the mouth of the lake to stabilize the water level. This would only be a temporary fix, he said, good for no more than three years, and would not bring the water level back up.

The narrow part of Whitney Brook, where the lake empties, is on land owned by Ray and Brenda Adams, both of whom have given permission for the dam to be built on the land.

There are three homeowners on the brook who have lost their water frontage due to the dam problem, and will lose more if the cofferdam is built. One of those is Robert Turnbull, who said he doesn’t want to stop the cofferdam from being built, but he does want a permanent solution.

If the cofferdam permit is approved, Ranhoff there are 700 sandbags ready to be unloaded from a truck.

There are approximately 140 homes or camps with frontage on the water, two-thirds of them in Hartford, Rick Ray said.

Ray said he would like to see a new dam built about 400 feet up the brook from the present one. The only hope for this is for Hartford to obtain grants to build the dam.

In June, dam owner Ray Fortier told the Sun Journal he had hired a Brunswick-based engineering firm to work on the report and to determine how much it would cost to restore the dam to full function. He reports paying $16,000 for the assessment.

In addition to discussing the cofferdam, the committee discussed expenses that will be incurred, including legal fees. Hamilton suggested one of the towns set up an account for donations. Conant, who is chairman of the Canton selectmen, said such an account had already been approved by her board.

The dam committee will meet next at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 24, at the Town Office.

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