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Friday, April 24, 2015 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 140 Issue 17

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4/24/2013 2:00:00 PM
Whitefield And Jefferson Plan Meetings To Consider Dam Ownership
By Shlomit Auciello


Citizens of Whitefield and Jefferson will have opportunities to weigh in on an April 1 request by Pleasant Pond Mill, LLC, for permission to abandon the dam at Clary Lake and sell or otherwise convey ownership to another entity.

The dam is located at 103 Mills Rd., in Whitefield.

Acting as PPM's manager, Paul Kelley, of Camden, sent letters to the towns of Whitefield and Jefferson, notifying them of his intent to file a petition with the Department of Environmental Protection for release from dam ownership of water level maintenance.

The letters arrived while interested parties awaited a decision from DEP in regard to a lake level petition filed last summer by lakeside property owner George Fergusson.

Fergusson, along with Clary Lake Association President Ellis Percy and Whitefield Selectmen Dennis Merrill and Frank Ober, was present at the April 22 meeting of the Jefferson Board of Selectmen.

Fergusson said state law requires towns in which the impounded body of water lies to hold public meetings within 60 days of the filing.

According to DEP spokeswoman Samantha DePoy-Warren, the petition for release from dam ownership or water level maintenance does not affect the outcome of the separate hearing process in regard to a petition, from Fergusson and others, calling on DEP to set a water level for Clary Lake. Fergusson said April 22, he expects a decision on that petition by the end of summer.

According to Merrill, the towns must act on the question of ownership within the 60-day period, leading to the need for a special town meeting. He said the dam owner has 180 days, after that meeting and decision by the town, to further respond.

PPM's next recourse is to the departments of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Conservation (within the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry) and Emergency Management.

If none of those entities choose to take ownership, the state will order the water level lowered and the dam removed, Merrill said.

"I'm a littler bit befuddled about what we're going to tell our voters," Merrill said.

"Multiple parties have made claims of significant public benefits from the existence of the Clary Lake dam," Kelley said April 4. He said private development would have guaranteed those public benefits.

"The town of Whitefield apparently is not interested in the private development proposed. But other parties continue to seek to impose the burden of public benefits on our private company. If there are no viable commercial prospects for this dam this statute proposes a mechanism for public beneficiaries to take over the burden and responsibility of dam ownership," Kelley said.

Kelley said PPM has an obligation to consult with the towns that might choose to take ownership of the dam.

Fergusson said the towns are not obligated to take any particular action, but to "consider and act on the issue." They could simply decide to create a committee to look into the matter, he said.

Merrill said voters would want to know the purchase price being asked for the dam.

"The dam owner can ask, but the purchaser does not have to pay more that the cost of transfer," Fergusson said. "I don't see anybody jumping up to buy the dam."

He said the law requires a sale, even if only the cost of transfer is offered and PPM would have to keep the dam if no buyer appears.

"The state generally feels that the people that benefit from impounded water should take responsibility," he said. Fergusson said lake shore owners already pay for the benefits through higher tax assessments. Two-thirds of Clary Lake's shoreside valuation is in Jefferson, with the remainder in Whitefield, according to Fergusson.

He said the Clary Lake Association is planning a formal offer for the dam, but would prefer that the towns own the property under an inter-local agreement that includes contributions from CLA to help with costs and management.

"Town have a better shot at getting grant money," Percy said.

At their April 8 meeting, consensus of the Jefferson board was that they had no interest in taking possession of the dam.

Town Clerk Lynn Barnikow said DEP policy requires a hearing be held at which time a decision is made. Because of time constraints, it is likely the meeting will be held as an open town meeting.

Whitefield citizens will be able to ask questions and gather information at a public meeting Tuesday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at the Whitefield Fire Department on Townhouse Road.

Whitefield's special town meeting on the matter has been tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, May 22. For more information on these meetings contact the Whitefield Town Office at 549-5175.

Jefferson selectmen hope to set the date for their special town meeting in regard to the dam to coincide with that of the town's school budget meeting. The date for the budget meeting has not been finalized. The Jefferson Town office can be reached at 549-7401.

For more information on DEP's actions and policies, contact Project Manager Beth Callahan at 446-1586 or beth.callahan@maine.gov.



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