WATERFORD — A plan by a Scarborough salvage company to harvest submerged timber from the bottom of Bear Pond has been delayed.
Matthew Albrecht, owner of Coastland LLC, doing business as River Driver Lumber, has told the state he will not begin operations this year, Dan Prichard of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, said. The bureau is the permitting authority over submerged log retrieval.
Albrecht was expected to begin operations in the late spring in Bear Pond in Waterford and Granger Pond in Denmark.
"I was looking at two places," Albrecht said. "We were all set to go in Denmark but there was an unadvertised horsepower restriction on that water. No one was aware of it. I thought we were all set, then someone saw me and the warden came down. The boat I needed was too big to meet the restriction. A 6-horsepower limit is a pretty small motor."
The restriction has pretty much ended his salvaging hopes in Denmark, he said.
Then an injury to his hand this summer left Albrecht disabled for about two months and placed a temporary hold on the Waterford operation.
Albrecht described the Waterford project as a “small salvage operation” that would consist removing of an average of two logs at a time. Logs would be located and lifted from the bottom of the lake by a sonar, camera and grapple system.
The company had already identified the location of each log. He said once the logs are raised they would be secured under the 20-foot pontoon boat, then the boat is loaded onto its trailer and taken off site.
He said the sunken logs in Bear Pond are largely hemlock and pine that were felled by the Hurricane of 1938 and then placed at the bottom of the lake to preserve them. Hundreds of lakes throughout Maine were designated at that time as storage ponds for the hurricane timber, he said.
Prichard said lakes in Maine are held by the public and the wood is publicly owned so a company needs permission from the state to start recovering logs, just as it would on public lands. Because the operation is in the water, companies usually need a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection or the Bureau of Land Use and other departments, he said.
The state also limits the amount of logs that can be taken annually and sets the board foot prices, some of which goes back to the state.
Albrecht notified the town of Waterford earlier this year that his company was in the process of obtaining a permit to conduct the salvage operation. The state also required him to get permission from Waterford for use of the town's boat launch.
Prichard said there is only one other active timber harvesting operation in Maine. Todd Morrissette of DeadHead Co., also in Scarborough, is harvesting sunken timber in Moosehead Lake.
“Maybe one or two give it a try every year,” Prichard said. “It's a lot of work.”
Because the wood is old and preserved against the effects of direct sunlight, oxygen and pests, it can be used for high quality woodworking, including flooring and custom wood pieces. It is also considered a very "green" way to salvage wood.
A few companies began investigating the possibility about 12 years ago after the Discovery Channel broadcast a show about the recovery of sunken logs in the Great Lakes. The show spurred interest here in Maine, Prichard said.
The submerged logs come mainly from the late 19th century and early 20th century logging operating that floated logs downriver and across lakes and from the Hurricane of 1938. Trees that were felled during that hurricane were dumped into designated lakes across the state.
Bear Pond is one of 11 ponds in Waterford. The others are Papoose Pond, Moose Pond, Keoka Lake, McWain Pond, Bog Pond, Little Moose Pond, Jewett Pond, Five Kezars Pond and Middle Pond, Duck Pond and Island Pond.
The 218-acre pond has a maximum depth of 72 feet, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Bear Pond lies at the base of Bear Mountain next to Route 35.