Officials seek dam repair plan

THE SPILLWAY DAM for Parker Pond and Pleasant Lake is failing, with cracks in the concrete, which allows water to move past the structure. Representatives from the towns of Casco and Otisfield are working on a solution, and will most likely ask for funding to hire a hydrologist at this winter’s special town meetings. (De Busk Photo)

THE SPILLWAY DAM for Parker Pond and Pleasant Lake is failing, with cracks in the concrete, which allows water to move past the structure. Representatives from the towns of Casco and Otisfield are working on a solution, and will most likely ask for funding to hire a hydrologist at this winter’s special town meetings. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer
CASCO — A person with no engineering background would be able to see the obvious: There are cracks in the dam between Mill Pond and Crooked River.
The concrete spillway dam has water passing through the cracks; and higher water pressure could cause more damage to the structure.
Mill Pond is where some of the water from Pleasant Lake and Parker Pond travels.
Recently, Casco Selectman Holly Hancock updated the board on the status of fixing the dam that is jointly owned by the towns of Casco and Otisfield.
The next step is to hire a hydrologist or hydro-engineer to make recommendations for the dam, Hancock said.
A subcommittee was formed in the early autumn. Currently, the task of that group is to get cost estimates for the hiring of a hydrologist this winter, she said. Then, the plan is to bring that request forward as a warrant item at the Special Town Meeting in January.
The towns of Otisfield and Casco would split the expense equally — if that budgetary matter is passed at those special town meetings, Hancock said.
According to Town Manager Dave Morton, “Before we can do design work or engineering, we need to have hydrology work done.”
He said that initial report would help the towns to answer all of the questions that the board had been discussing.
“Are we going to be investing in a new dam, or repairing the old one at the same spot? We need the hydrology done before making a decision,” Morton said.
If the cost of engaging a hydrologist is approved at Special Town Meeting, the next phase will be to garner a range of costs to repair the existing structure or to construct a new dam. That budgetary matter could appear as a warrant at Town Meeting in June.
Morton said that concepts such as putting in a hydro-electric dam are among the things a hydrologist can address.
Another issue regarding the faulty dam is keeping water levels on par with Department of Environmental Protection standards, Hancock said.
“We met with DEP about the water level order. Our understanding was that since this was short-term, a note would be an addendum to water level orders,” she said.
“This water level order is set by the state. The order said that we, as the owners, will keep that water level at certain level,” she said.
“In the statue, there is an exception; and that is damage related to the weather,” she said.
“We wouldn’t pass the straight face test, because the damage is to the structure,” Hancock said.
“The water in the lower areas is what is supporting life. It is an issue for the health of the lake and everything surrounding the watershed,” she said.
During the board November meeting, Chairman Grant Plummer said there is no need for citizens who live on Pleasant Lake or Parker Pond to worry about the water levels, which tend to be lower in the late fall and early winter.
“I want the public to understand — we aren’t going to drop the lake level. Essentially, we are maintaining it right where it is right now,” he said.
“We need to pursue the hydrology (report) and figure out the prices for the public,” Plummer said.
Newly-seated Selectman Thomas “Tom” Peaslee asked if there was a sense of urgency regarding the repair of the dam.
Morton answered that two reviews had been completed. First, a division of the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) completed a review of the structure by a dam inspector in August.
“There was a review done by the state dam inspectors. Their conclusion was that it is in bad shape and in danger of failure,” he said.
Then, the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Association footed the bill of $6,000 to have a second engineer take a look at the dam.
According to Morton, that was a more detailed study.
The engineer agreed with the state inspector that the dam was in poor condition and on the brink of possible failure.
“Currently, more water is bypassing the dam through the dam rather than going over spillways. It will continue to undermine the structure. The more water that goes through, the greater the deterioration of the material of the structure,” Morton said.

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