I have been living locally for 59 years and operating my business in Oxford for 23 years. It’s not often that I chime in on local town politics, but a situation has come to my attention and I believe that there is an opportunity to save the town of Oxford a significant amount of money while also protecting the property value of an important and valued group of Oxford taxpayers: the landowners on Hogan and Whitney ponds.

The issue at hand is the Welchville Dam where Route 26 crosses the Little Androscoggin River, which is in an irreparable state of decay. There is no question that the dam needs to be dealt with, and given how volatile the weather has been lately, it needs to be dealt with soon.

There is current momentum toward fully replacing the dam as this was initially (and likely incorrectly) believed to be the only way to maintain the water levels on the ponds. The top of the dam sits 12 inches above the bottom of the outlet stream of both of those ponds. Without a dam, or other infrastructure in place, they could potentially lose a lot of water, which would significantly compromise the value and enjoyment of landowners’ property.

This scary possibility requires us to proceed with extreme caution and to rely on professional opinions from hydraulic experts as we explore ways to deal with the current dam.

Preliminary studies have pointed toward the exciting possibility of a solution that could not only eliminate the risk of any water loss in the ponds, but also prevent the ponds from flooding and damaging properties, which happens periodically when the Little Andro swells with heavy rains.

The research has shown that if the outlets of the ponds are properly protected there is a very high likelihood that the Welchville Dam could be completely removed and the pond water levels would not drop at all. Furthermore, the same outlet protections that would be installed would also prevent the ponds from flooding.


Of course, further research and a trial run would be essential so that we can know with 100% certainty that the water levels would not drop should the dam be removed. This research and trial run will cost some money, but should this approach prove to be successful the savings to the town of Oxford will be tremendous.

During the process of determining the necessity of having the dam or not, the town engaged an engineering firm, VHB of South Portland, that concluded by placing natural barriers (rocks and aggregate materials) at the outlets of Whitney and Hogan the water levels in those two ponds will be maintained at an efficiency very similar to having a dam downstream.

The cost of this solution is around $100,000 and that money would need to be spent in order to undergo the experiment of opening up the dam to prove if and how water levels on the ponds would be impacted. The professionals are predicting success, and if they are correct the only further money to be spent would be to remove the dam at an additional cost of $300,000, which would bring the project total to approximately $400,000.

When we compare that number to the estimated $2 million to remove and replace the current dam, we see a savings of $1.6 million. Should this approach work, it sure seems like everybody wins big. (Well, except for maybe the company that would love to take on a $2 million dam project.)

The property owners maintain and protect their water levels, the taxpayers save a lot of money, and the environment and health of the river will also see great benefit, as it always does when a dam is removed.

It is also exciting to think about more recreational opportunities for us all to enjoy on this beautiful waterway. Maybe even a park along the river?

I propose that we spend the $100,000 to place the natural barriers at the outlet of the ponds and open up the gate on the old dam and see what happens. If the engineer is wrong, we replace the dam and our budget went up less than 5%. If he is right, well, there is no end to the winning.

Let’s give it a year and see if the engineer is right. One point six million dollars is a good return on a $100,000 investment.

Scott Stones lives in Oxford.

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