Farmington to host public meetings on dam removal

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FARMINGTON — Three public meetings will be held prior to a November referendum asking Farmington residents if they want to see the Walton’s Mill Dam on Temple Stream removed by the Atlantic Salmon Federation. 

The first meeting will be held Wednesday while additional dates have been set for Oct. 10 and Oct. 24, according to a news release from the Farmington Conservation Commission.

All three meetings will be held at 6 p.m. at the Farmington Community Center.

The meetings come ahead of a Nov. 6 referendum that will ask voters if they want to authorize the removal of the dam at a cost of $1.2 million to be paid for by the federation and which would include upgrades to neighboring Mill Pond Park with no cost to the town.

Wednesday’s event will focus on salmon history, science and restoration efforts in the Kennebec River watershed and why a decision about the dam is required at this time. 

The Oct. 10 meeting will discuss the ecology of dam removal and impacts on other fish and wildlife species. The third meeting Oct. 24 will focus on the experiences of other dam removal projects in Maine and what impacts the removal of the Walton’s Mill Dam could have for the community, recreation and tourism in the future.

“I know sometimes people like to maintain the status quo, but these dams do age over time and do require maintenance,” said Andy Goode, vice president of U.S. operations for the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “In this case, the town is being asked to do something in terms of fish passage at that site. The status quo is not really an option.” 

The federation, based in Brunswick, has worked on over 30 fish passage projects in Maine in the last 15 years, including the Penobscot River Restoration Project. 

Farmington is currently in violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act because the dam prevents salmon from getting upstream to their spawning grounds. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could take action against the town at any time, but the agency has been lenient while the town is working on a solution. 

The $1.2 million proposal from ASF includes the removal of the dam, upgrades to Walton’s Mill Pond Park and $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.

In July, selectmen voted 4-1 to endorse the proposal, with only Selectman Matthew Smith voting against it. Voter approval is also needed before the project can move forward. 

“Over the last few years we’ve worked with the town, town manager and (board of selectmen) to try and develop a vision for taking care of the responsibility the town has while also bringing in resources to achieve what the town is looking for and improve the fish passage,” Goode said. 

“The town would have multiple issues taken care of along with a new and improved park if they choose to go forward with this proposal, although obviously that’s up to the voters.”

Farmington selectmen have approved a $1.2 million project that includes removal of the Walton’s Mill Dam on Temple Stream. Three public meetings on the dam have been scheduled before Election Day in November, when Farmington residents will decide if they want the dam removed by the Atlantic Salmon Federation. (Rachel Ohm/Morning Sentinel)

Farmington selectmen have approved a $1.2 million project that includes removal of the Walton’s Mill Dam on Temple Stream. Three public meetings on the dam have been scheduled before Election Day in November, when Farmington residents will decide if they want the dam removed by the Atlantic Salmon Federation. (Rachel Ohm/Morning Sentinel)

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