It likely means that hopes of surfing, kayaking and tubing down the canals are out.

Lewiston owns some water in the canal, but the structures themselves are owned by a private company that appears ready to part with them.

Last month, Grow L+A pitched the City Council a proposal on stopping negotiations with canal owner Brookfield Renewable Power to see whether the canals could be turned into a recreational hot spot — something that would take all of the water the city currently has dibs on.

Peter Rubins, chairman of Grow L+A’s Androscoggin River Recreational Task Force, said he walked the canals this past summer with a consultant who saw potential.

“There’s a lot of places that have taken old canals and their waterfront and river frontage and turned it into this surf/kayak wave,” Rubins said. “That’s the only thing we’re asking for is a feasibility study, not necessarily to do it. If it’s not favorable, at least you looked into doing it.”

Lincoln Jeffers, the city’s economic and community development director, said the idea was intriguing but likely too late. The city has been negotiating with the canals’ owners for six years.


The deal finally reached with Brookfield will be unveiled at a council workshop on Nov. 18. The council next month will vote it up or down.

Lewiston holds the rights to 150 cubic feet of water per second flowing through the canals, supplied by Brookfield. When the city turbine at the end of the canal worked, water passed through and generated electricity, but the turbine hasn’t worked for several years.

“The whole reason for getting these canals is to turn them into assets,” Jeffers said. “(Right now) there’s big fences, overgrown banks — you can’t see them, there’s nothing to engage.”

What Lewiston has had in mind: Creating walking paths and a feel that fits into the larger plans for waterfront development.

“‘Let’s go out and surf Bates 5,’ the more active, thrill-seeking type of recreation, at this point, I don’t see gaining a lot of steam,” Jeffers said.

He couldn’t comment on terms of the deal, or how much water Lewiston is giving up rights to, but said he thought this was “more beneficial to the city” than the agreement nearly hammered out with the canals’ former owner, NextEra Energy Maine.


The public will be able to weigh in and ask questions on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

Rubins estimated the cost of a feasibility study at $50,000 to $200,000, depending upon the uses studied. The consultant from McLaughlin Whitewater had outlined potential for “world-class surfing waves for kayaks and surfboards” by No. 5 and No. 6 mills, an “international caliber whitewater slalom” by Oxford Street and rafting and tubing by Simard-Payne Memorial Park.

Rubins said he was told, “You probably need at least 150 cubic feet per second to make it worthwhile.”

“I don’t think I changed their mind,” Rubins said of his Lewiston council pitch. “I think they’re ready to do that trade now.”

His task force’s second aim, beyond recreation in the canals: Getting a year-round steady flow of water over the Great Falls.

“We’ve built all of these walkways and paths, hotels, and what are they all surrounding? Dry falls,” Rubins said. “When it’s running, people come from miles around to see it. It’s one of the most beautiful geological wonders within 150 or 200 miles. Who would turn off Niagara Falls 10 months out of the year?”

Jeffers said that piece could be revisited when the Monty Hydro Station license comes up for renewal in 10 years. 

“That’s when water releases can be negotiated, that’s when conserved land can be negotiated, that’s when access to the water can be negotiated,” Jeffers said.

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