Farmington dam study sparks debate

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FARMINGTON — A first look at options for the Walton’s Mill Dam on Wednesday raised strong emotions at times, as nearby landowners voiced concerns about potential demolition or changes to the dam.

Neighbors who have enjoyed the scenic pond for recreation and viewing wildlife questioned the existence of salmon in the stream and the potential for changing the ecosystem to accommodate a low number of potential salmon. 

Comments, some voiced in anger, prompted several requests to allow the presenters to finish their talk. 

John Burrows, the director of New England Programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, and Joseph McLean, an engineer with Wright-Pierce, presented the research and engineer’s findings compiled in a draft feasibility report. 

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It is not a final report and does not make a recommendation. It provides options, including hydropower generation and the estimated cost of each, he said.

Public feedback about the dam or proposed changes to Walton’s Mill Pond Park are needed by Dec. 29 to help finalize the reports by February, Burrows said. From there, he plans to take it to the Board of Selectmen.

“I don’t know how the town wants to move ahead,” he said.

After Atlantic salmon, a federally endangered species, were found spawning south of the dam, Burrows came to the town offering the federation’s help in exploring options to provide fish passage up Temple Stream.

The town could face federal court action for not providing fish passage, he said in response to Town Manager Richard Davis asking what would happen if the town does nothing.

Operating a fishway or demolishing the dam would make the town not liable, Burrows said.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation paid for the feasibility study and for a plan of improvements to the adjacent park. David Maynes, a landscape architect from the firm Richardson & Associates, presented conceptual designs for the park.

The completed study and plan will be given to the town because the town owns the property and it is a decision for voters to make, Burrows said.

The work done over the summer shows the dam is in fair to poor condition and needs repairs to get to satisfactory condition, an estimated $350,000 fix. It will never get to good condition again, McLean said. It is an old dam.

McLean discussed hydropower generation, calling it a “not good economics” option that would cost up to $3 million to construct in return for $7,500 of revenue per year, he said.

He also explained the potential for two fishway options, both in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, plus the cost of repairs to the structure, bringing costs closer to $600,000.

Removal of the dam is estimated at $400,000, according to the report.

The 140-page report can be emailed by the Town Office. The town also has a printed copy for review by residents.  

Burrows asked for any comments or questions about the dam or the park to be emailed to him at John@asf.comcastbiz.net by Dec. 29.

abryant@sunmediagroup.net

Engineer Joseph McLean of Wright-Pierce presented information from a Walton’s Mill Pond Dam draft feasibility study during a public meeting Wednesday at the Community Center in Farmington. Nearly 50 people, including students from a University of Maine at Farmington geology class, attended. (Ann Bryant/Franklin Journal)

In front, engineer Joseph McLean of Wright-Pierce, left, and John Burrows, director of New England programs at  the Atlantic Salmon Federation, right, presented information from a Walton’s Mill Pond Dam draft feasibility study during a public meeting Wednesday at the Farmington Community Center. (Ann Bryant/Franklin Journal)

Engineer Joseph McLean of Wright-Pierce presented information from a Walton’s Mill Pond Dam draft feasibility study during a public meeting Wednesday at the Community Center in Farmington. Nearly 50 people, including students from a University of Maine at Farmington geology class, attended. (Ann Bryant/Franklin Journal)

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