CANTON — Work on the new public access boat launch ramp on Whitney Brook is expected to be completed this fall. The brook is the outlet of Lake Anasagunticook in its northeast corner.
The boat launch is part of a multi-pronged larger project to redevelop the downtown area fronted by Route 108 and Route 140, which includes a new dam and cleanup of the old Brindis Leathers Tannery site, Malcolm Ray, Canton engineer and member of the Dam Advisory Committee, said on Friday morning.
Canton took the area and deteriorating tannery dam through eminent domain in July 2008, a few years after the state ordered the sluice gates opened because a state inspection on Dec. 4, 2006, deemed the dam a threat to public safety. But the dam owner wouldn't sell the property to the town, Ray said.
"So we took the property by eminent domain, so the next step was obviously, we’re going to build a dam, but what are we going to do with all the mess that built up here over the years?" he asked.
Ray said the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has long wanted to construct a public access boat launch site on the lake.
"So we started kicking around ideas, and IF&W from the very beginning was really helpful," he said.
Three or four years ago, Canton officials suggested putting the ramp site just upstream of where the new dam would be built.
The town owned the land, Ray said, and there'd be plenty of space for parking so officials didn't have to worry about boat owners backing across a busy road to put in or take out their boats.
One clincher for MDIF&W, Ray said, came from the milfoil perspective.
Water milfoils are rooted, submerged aquatic weeds found naturally in lakes and streams. Maine has five varieties that are native and part of the natural lake ecosystem, but two non-native species threaten the quality of Maine's fresh waters, according to the Bridgton's Lakes Environmental Association website.
"Down here," Ray said of the outlet, "you put a boat in that’s got milfoil on it, and it’s going to get flushed downstream.
"It’s going to go over the dam and out," he said. "It’s highly unlikely to go upstream and damage the lake."
He said MDIF&W also liked the location because it is far away from the lake, which is Canton's water source. That figured prominently in getting federal and state funding for the redevelopment project, Ray said.
He estimated the project cost for the boat ramp, a paved parking area, Port-A-Potty pads and signage to be about $110,000.
Leon Bucher of the MDIF&W previously said three-fourths of the money for the launch comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.
So essentially, the state pays for the boat ramp, Ray said, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is paying for the tannery site cleanup on which the boat launch parking area will be built. Canton's match would come from work by volunteers.
Kleinschmidt Engineering was hired for the boat ramp site and the dam projects.
According to plans Bucher handed out at a previous meeting, access to the ramp would be from Staples Hill Road. There will be a circular driveway leading to the planked ramp. Parking will accommodate 12 trailers and seven cars.
Ray said Canton will retain ownership of the property, and the state has an easement to maintain the boat ramp into perpetuity.
But from a fishing standpoint, the best part of the state building a new public access site and the new dam, which was completed last year, is that once the boat launch site is completed, the MDIF&W will resume stocking the lake with brook trout, Ray said.
"MDIF&W stopped stocking the lake when we got our dam safety order, because there was no point in stocking brook trout when they would get flushed downstream in the brook and into the Androscoggin," he said.