Dam failure equals DEP fines

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
CASCO — If the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond dam continues to release too much water, resulting in lake levels that are below the state’s mandate, the towns of Casco and Otisfield could face hefty fines.
Those fines would come from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which has already warned the town of that possibility, according to Casco Selectman Holly Hancock.
So, the town of Casco will have to spend money not only to avoid fines, but also to maintain the water levels and water quality that is enjoyed by both residents and tourists.
The next step in repairing the dam is two-prong: A hydrology study and a conceptual design based on the results of the study.
A committee comprised of Casco and Otisfield representatives put the hydrology study and engineering out to bid. It received three bids for the job.
Hiring a professional company to complete those tasks will cost $7,700.
But first, this expenditure must be approved by Casco residents at a Special Town Meeting.
Essentially, the dam project has delayed the Special Town Meeting, which was originally slated for mid-January.
On Tuesday, the Casco Board of Selectmen agreed on a new date for the Special Town Meeting: Thursday, Feb. 26. It will be held in the large meeting room of the Casco Community Center.
“There has been some discussion, and we think pushing it forward would make sense,” Chairman Grant Plummer said.
He said the later date for the Special Town Meeting would provide more time for the board to put together the language for the barking dog ordinance and also to gather the information regarding the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond dam.
“It is to give us more time to prepare and the public more time to ingest what we are doing,” Plummer said.
Selectman Calvin Nutting asked if it would be better to wait until regular Town Meeting to address the issue of repairing the dam as well as postponing a couple other warrant items.
According to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton, “As far as “the dam (goes), they are anxious to get that project moving forward. A three- to four-week wait wouldn’t be critical to that, but waiting until June” wouldn’t pan out as well.
He said that the water flow, or hydrology, study and the engineering designs should be in place by construction season. Therefore, it would be preferable to know the cost of actually building a new dam or repairing the old one before the regular Town Meeting in the early summer, Morton said.
The initial costs for the study and blue prints will be shared by the municipalities of Otisfield and Casco. According to Hancock, the Otisfield Board of Selectmen has already voted to allocate money from its Contingency Fund.
Selectman Nutting said the cost of maintenance of the dam should be on the shoulders of the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Lake Association, rather than the town.
Hancock disagreed with that assessment.
She addressed a concern of people on the committee that has been reviewing the dam.
“(We) have talked about the importance of this project not being perceived as a lake association project. These are two major water bodies — this is a taxpayers’ issue, a community issue. The water level feeds the tourism,” she said.
A representative from the DEP, who toured the dam, stressed the importance of maintaining slightly higher water levels to provide the proper habitat for amphibians living in those shoreline and wetland areas, Hancock said.
A date of Wednesday, Jan. 21, was set for a joint meeting of both boards at the Casco Community Center.
Much of the information that the selectmen were reviewing on Tuesday night was data that they were looking at for the first time.
When Chairman Plummer glanced at the bid costs, he said, “I was expecting a higher number, especially for both the hydrology study and the conceptual design.”
Regarding the design, Selectman Nutting said he was not sure what was being proposed to replace or repair the dam.
Hancock responded, “That is what this study will determine: What are the options for fixing this dam?”
Morton said, “So, Calvin you brought this up before. Even where the dam is located — is that the best location? Are there opportunities to add a future hydro-electric generator?”
“This is where the next phase or study will take us,” Nutting said.
“The more we look at the dam, the more the concerns have risen,” Morton said.

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