Whitney Brook residents seek voice on dam committee

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CANTON – Though there are only four houses that have frontage on Whitney Brook, those four families don’t believe they are being properly represented by the committee formed to study the situation with the dam.

Whitney Brook runs between lake Anasagunticook and the dam and serves as an outlet for the lake.

A core committee was formed by people who had expertise in certain areas to study the dam situation. The committee has attorney Michael Poulin as a legal advisor, Malcolm Ray as an engineer, Debbie Hutchins from the Water Co. and Donald Hutchins from the Sewer Co. Rick Ray will be working on trying to get grants.

Robert Turnbull, who lives on Whitney Brook, said he wanted to be on that core committee. His expertise was questioned. Turnbull said, “I live on the brook. That’s expertise enough and I want to be on that committee.”

The dam gates were ordered opened by Gen. John W. Libby, commissioner of the state Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. Libby ordered the gates opened because dam owner Ray Fortier had not made repairs to the dam that had been ordered by state inspectors.

According to Dana Murch of Department of Environmental Protection, the engineering report that Fortier has been ordered to produce is supposed to be ready in mid-August. Fortier has owned the dam for more than 20 years. Jackie Conant said the town had the opportunity to buy the dam but took no action. Problems have been constant over the years.

Robert Turnbull, Dian Mooar and Herbert Harding all live on Whitney Brook and have boat docks on the mill pond that have been used over the last 50 years or so. Harding said even last summer there was a party boat on the brook. These docks are now several feet out of the water.

Turnbull said until the Lake Association put in the boat launch on Route 140 around 2004, people launched their boats on the brook behind his house on his property. He also has 18 certified letters from owners on the lake who said they have launched boats on his property.

Turnbull feels they have been completely left out of the loop with the committee working on the dam. He says the people applying for a temporary dam permit never asked the brook residents about where to place the dam.

Turnbull said if the temporary dam was put on the old bridge abutments, everyone would be happy. “Cost is irrelevant,” he said. “The issue is what is fair.”

Turnbull has 20 years of documentation from Fortier and the state on what he has been ordered to do over the years. In a letter from Dana Murch from the Department of Transportation dated April 6, 2000, Murch tells Fortier that Whitney Brook is a navigable brook.

“The public has the right to boat and canoe and to fish and swim from a boat or canoe on all floatable rivers and streams. To be floatable, a stream only needs to be large enough to float logs at least once a year,” he said. Whitney Brook is navigable, he added.

Mooar says she bought her house because of the water access. Now that she is trying to sell, she has no water access.

The water level is also affecting local businesses. Diane Campbell, owner of Canton Variety, said her business has been hurt.

“Hardly any boats come to the lake so I have a drop in sales for gas, groceries and beer. Yes, it has certainly affected my business.”

Bob Goding of Ralph’s Market added, “Well, the summer people are still here though they are having trouble getting their boats in the water. I’ve lost some business but mostly from the sold out homes. But it will come back, it always does.”

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