4/28/10: dam repair and communications; from wood mill to energy plant

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dam news: repairs to the New Mills Dam in Gardiner, Maine. In order to repair two uprights on the New Mills Dam in Gardiner, the Cobbossee Watershed District has drawn down Cobbosseecontee Stream and attached Pleasant Pond by almost a vertical foot, exposing more pond and stream bottom than in the past six years. The two wooden uprights of the dam were damaged by high water and bashed by ice in late February. Kruger Energy, which also operates a hydroelectric dam downstream that it acquired last November from Ridgewood Maine Hydro Partners LP, is performing the repairs, which are expected to take one day.

The New Mills Dam demonstrates one relatively common form of small dam ownership in New England. In this case, the dam is owned by the municipalities of Gardiner, Litchfield and Richmond. These three owners pay for the upkeep, while Kruger Energy is contracted out to manage maintenance and repairs.

Here, the drawdown has concerned some people who live along the impoundment. They are concerned about erosion, nesting ducks, fish, and in general about the management of the impoundment. While the drawdown is required for safety during the dam repairs, this situation demonstrates the importance of communication and collaboration between dam owners and neighboring abutters.

From a forest products mill to an energy facility! The town of Madison is considering the potential transformation of the former Anson Stick Mill into an energy-producing facility. The town acquired the abandoned mill and its biomass boiler from Downeast Woodcrafters, and now is exploring creating a municipal heating district within the downtown area. While municipal heating districts are common in Europe, as well as on American institutional campuses (e.g. universities), the practice is not widely deployed in New England. Madison Economic Development Director Joy Hikel said the goal behind a potential energy-producing facility is twofold: to reduce heating or electricity costs for the owners of the downtown buildings by 40 to 50 percent, and to provide local utility Madison Electric Works with an affordable source of energy to sell to consumers.

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