FARMINGTON — Selectmen on Tuesday reviewed a $1.2 million proposal from the Atlantic Salmon Federation for removal of the Walton’s Mill Dam and upgrades to a surrounding public park that would include new restrooms, a pavilion and event space.
The proposal, which is expected to be considered by voters in a November referendum, offers an alternative to leaving the dam in place and building fish passageways at an estimated cost to the town of $750,000.
The cost of the group’s proposal would be covered entirely by the organization, but has been met with opposition from proponents of keeping the dam.
“Either way the town has to make a decision, because right now we’re in violation of the Endangered Species Act,” Town Manager Richard Davis said.
Property owners in the vicinity of the dam don’t want to see the water level in Walton’s Mill Pond drop, while others have cited the historic value of the dam, which dates to around 1820, as reasons to oppose its removal, Davis said.
The proposal reviewed Tuesday includes plans for two road crossings over the stream, removal of the dam and landscaping.
The landscaping would include replacing a wooden walkway leading up to the stream, new lawn space and an expanded parking lot at Walton’s Mill Pond Park.
It also includes plans for removing invasive species, building a new pavilion and creating a new trail through the woods. No action was taken on the proposal Tuesday, though the board did discuss moving forward on new road culverts ahead of any action on the full proposal.
The town is in violation of the Endangered Species Act because the dam prevents salmon from getting upstream to their spawning grounds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could hold the town accountable “at any time,” according to Davis, but it has been lenient as long as the town is working on a solution.
“The ASF has said they will pay for all of this work,” he said. “As we picture it going forward, this would be the basis of a vote, and voters would have to decide if this is an agreement they want the selectmen to enter into. At this point it seems to make the most economic sense.”