Farmington board backs offer to remove dam

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Walton’s Mill Dam in Farmington may be removed if voters approve.

Walton’s Mill Pond Park recreation area in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — The Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 Tuesday night to support a $1.2 million proposal from the Atlantic Salmon Federation to remove the Walton’s Mill Dam and upgrade a surrounding public park, at no cost to the town.

Matthew Smith voted against the proposal.

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The project also is subject to voters’ approval.

The town is in violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act because the old dam is blocking salmon from getting up Temple Stream to spawn.

“The federal government could demand we do something at any moment,” Town Manager Richard Davis said. “Right now we have an opportunity to take advantage of funding at no cost to the town. With all the other needs we have, it’s very difficult to think about spending $750,000 of taxpayer money to fix a dam and install a fish ladder.”

The Atlantic Salmon Federation is offering to remove the dam and work with the town to redesign Walton’s Mill Pond Park and set aside $20,000 for the town to use for future repairs and maintenance.

If the proposal is not accepted, the town’s other option for complying with federal law would be to spend an estimated $750,000, likely of taxpayer money, to build a fish passageway and leave the dam in place.

Smith said he voted not to support the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s proposal because he thinks the town is being bullied into the decision.

“They’ve expected us to make a certain decision,” Smith said. “I understand it would be expensive to build a fish passageway, but it’s still our choice.”

The federation’s plans include upgrades to the park such as a new pavilion, bathroom facilities and added trails.

Three public meetings have been held on the topic, and more will be planned before the town vote, selectmen said.

Also on Tuesday, the board authorized the Farmington Police Department to accept a transfer of $1,108 in criminal forfeiture assets as the result of a drug investigation, $1,000 from the Healthy Community Coalition to conduct underage drinking enforcement details, $2,500 from Dirigo Safety for underage drinking enforcement and sales and service compliance checks, $11,691 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to participate in Operation Stonegarden, and $3,300 from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to conduct all-terrain vehicle patrols.

They also awarded a contract for a Front Street retaining wall and culvert project to Ranger Contracting of Winslow for $421,402. Funding for that project will come from public works funds, a $75,000 grant from the Department of Environmental Protection, and Tax Increment Financing funds.

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