OXFORD – A meeting Monday on Oxford County natural resources issues centered on the Canton dam replacement project.

The Threshold To Maine Resource Conservation and Development Area held the meeting at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center. The organization is a program of the USDA, whose goal is to balance natural resource use and conservation.

People who attended the meeting said cooperation between Canton and Hartford on replacing a dam on Whitney Brook could lead to additional regional efforts for resource protection.

Last summer, Canton took over ownership of the dam from Ray Fortier of Sabattus after state inspectors ordered the dam’s gates lowered for safety reasons. The order led to a 6-foot drop in the level of Anasagunticook Lake, which lies in both towns.

Construction of a new dam is estimated to cost $700,000.

Judy Hamilton, a Hartford resident and member of the Anasagunticook Dam Committee, said the towns are in the first phase of a multi-phase project and looking to put in a temporary dam. She said the towns are looking to restore the water level in Anasagunticook Lake and to preserve wildlife habitats.

“There’s been some progress, but it’s slow, and we just need to keep at it,” Hamilton said.

Sue Gammon of the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District suggested the dam project could include natural resource protection, downstream protection, and other elements for more cooperation and support from conservation organizations.

Gammon said additional funds might be available for the project if the Androscoggin River, to which Whitney Brook drains, is reclassified for salmon protection.

Gammon also suggested that towns could come up with “mutually acceptable ordinances” for lake protection, mentioning Anasagunticook Lake and Bear Pond, which lies in Hartford and Turner.

Jack Merrill, chairman of the Threshold To Maine Council, said some opposition to ordinances comes from a perception that they are proposed by “non-native” Maine residents.

Mark Hews, coordinator of the Resource Conservation and Development Area, said the organization could submit a project application and bring other organizations together to address the matter.

The program provides technical assistance to communities and groups on natural resources. It is sponsored by the Oxford County Commission, Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, and Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District.

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