OXFORD — A county conservation agency has recommended several measures to enhance safety at the dam at Robinson Mill.

Ross Cudlitz, district engineer with the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District, said the measures are necessary to ensure the safety of any workers on the dam. Other suggestions also relate to the safety of workers and repairs to the above-water features of the dam, which controls water levels on Thompson Lake.

Michelle Windsor, project manager with the conservation district, said the agency offers technical assistance on issues involving water quality, land use and erosion. It currently manages the McDonough Dam and Colton Dam in Stow, and offered its services to Oxford to help improve the dam.

Cudlitz recommended that a galvanized “wire rope” cable be set up across the dam’s catwalk, which workers could use to access underwater trash screens that capture debris before it enters the gates. He said all workers on the catwalk should wear an appropriate harness and be tethered to the cable. In addition, he said people who use the catwalk for purposes other than cleaning the screens should wear personal flotation devices, and a life preserver should be available at the catwalk.

Cudlitz said Wednesday that the town has implemented one of his recommendations and put temporary plywood over the rotting wooden surface of the catwalk. He said the entire catwalk needs to be replaced, but that an underwater survey must first be done to assess the condition of a supporting column that is tipping.

The underwater survey has not been done, but Cudlitz said he has found a company to do the work. This will include videotaping the trash screens, gates, concrete, and other parts of the dam to identify any problems. The survey will also determine whether water flow from an open gate is increasing stress on piping within a nearby mill building, in which case a metal plate may be installed to close the opening and relieve the pressure.

The town has removed part of a log boom upstream from the dam that served as a primary barrier against debris. Cudlitz is recommending the replacement of the boom, as well as visible markers to identify the barrier.

The town assumed dam operations last year after taking control of the Robinson Mill complex due to nonpayment of taxes. It has also formed an advisory dam committee with members from Oxford and the other three towns on Thompson Lake: Casco, Otisfield and Poland. These four towns also raised a total of $25,000 for dam repairs at their respective annual town meetings. Approximately $4,000 has been spent on dam repairs.

Windsor said there have been some complaints in the past over high water levels on Thompson Lake. She said it is currently a manual rather than electrical process to raise and lower the water levels, which is more difficult and time-consuming.

“We’re hoping to assist the town of Oxford in establishing a regular schedule in checking the water levels,” she said. “It should be several times a week if not daily.”

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