FARMINGTON — Residents will have the opportunity to vote Tuesday on whether to authorize the town to move ahead with a $1.2 million proposal to remove the Walton’s Mill Dam and upgrade a surrounding public park.
The proposal would be funded entirely by the Atlantic Salmon Federation and includes the removal of the dam and upgrades to the neighboring Walton’s Mill Pond Park at no cost to the town.
The town recently wrapped up a series of public meetings on the proposal, which Town Manager Richard Davis said were well-attended and informative.
“Hopefully we’ve given folks enough information to make an informed decision when they vote,” Davis said. “Now we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”
Farmington is in violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act because the dam is blocking salmon from traveling up Temple Stream to spawn, according to a letter sent to the town in March 2016 from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
If the proposal is not accepted, the town’s other option for complying with federal law would be to spend an estimated $750,000, probably of taxpayer money, to build a fish passageway and leave the dam in place.
In July, selectmen voted 4-1 in support of the dam removal, with Matthew Smith voting against the proposal, saying he thought the federation was forcing the town to remove the dam. Smith did not respond to a phone call seeking comment this week.
The proposal from the Atlantic Salmon Federation includes the dam removal as well as new lawn space in Walton’s Mill Pond Park, trail improvements, an expanded parking lot, public restrooms and a pavilion. It also would pay to replace culverts on Clover Mill Road and Cummings Hill Road, estimated at $350,000 in all.
Walton’s Mill Dam in Farmington (File photo)