HARRISON – A preservation group seeking to restore Scribner’s Mill to an operational sawmill has appealed to the Board of Environmental Protection to reverse a permit denial.

Scribner’s Mill Preservation Inc. argues that it met the four requirements that the Department of Environmental Protection says it did not satisfy. In its denial, the DEP stated that the project would not provide significant environmental benefits to the public and would not provide advantages greater than adverse impacts over the life of the project.

The DEP also said the group had not provided assurances that the project would not violate state water quality standards or mitigate any environmental impacts.

Dana Murch, dams and hydropower supervisor for the DEP, said the Board of Environmental Protection has not scheduled a date to hear the appeal.

Scribner’s Mill Preservation is hoping to restore the mill over the Crooked River and use it to provide educational opportunities and create specialty wood products for the restoration market. Part of the proposal involves the reconstruction of a now breached dam, which opponents of the project argue would inhibit upstream passage of landlocked Atlantic salmon from Sebago Lake.

In its 21-page appeal, the group argues that it has met all of the DEP requirements, including environmental concerns. Specifically, the group says the site is the only 19th century sash sawmill left in North America that is at its original site, with its original buildings and equipment, and with the potential to be operated by its original power source.

“In consultation with a number of sources, including but not limited to the Smithsonian and National Historic Trust, it was determined that the cash value of Scribner’s Mill as the last site in North America retaining all four defining characteristics is incalculable,” the group says. “Therefore, the historic and social value can only be described as priceless.”

Through salaries, the sale of wood products, educational benefits, tourism value, and special events, the group estimates that the mill restoration project would create an annual economic value of $409,191. Approximately $210,000 of that value would come from the sale of lumber, timbers, barrels, shingles, and clapboards manufactured at the mill to the restoration market.

The group says that these benefits outweigh the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s estimate that the project would result in a $15,325 annual loss from adverse effects on the fish population. They also argue that the DIFW used erroneous figures in reaching that amount.

The group says its proposed rock ramp fishway with a 2.6 percent slope is amenable to fish passage and that they are willing to do a follow-up fisheries survey and compensate for actual losses.

In addition, the group says they contest the DEP’s finding that feasible alternatives exist to run the mill without constructing a dam. The group says that the alternatives will come at higher cost, compromise the use of 19th century methods to run the mill, and be environmentally detrimental.

The mill was constructed in 1847 and operated until 1962. Scribner’s Mill Preservation was founded in 1975. The mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, but removed after a partial collapse the next year due to high water conditions.

The Board of Environmental Protection has recommended that the section of the 50-mile Crooked River at Scribner’s Mill be reclassified as Class AA, which would preclude the dam’s construction.

The recommendation is one of several river reclassification requests in a bill currently before the Natural Resources Committee in the Maine Legislature.

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