May 25, 2010 - New Mills dam in context

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yesterday, I wrote about the Reed & Reed-affiliated company Osprey 1 LLC that has asked FERC for preliminary approval to study powering up the New Mills dam on the Cobbosseecontee in Gardiner, Maine. I'm going to use this space to post some of my notes as I dig into this story.

First, some FERC basics. We're talking about docket number P-13709-000, Notice of Preliminary Permit Application Accepted for Filing and Soliciting Comments, Motions to Intervene, and Competing Applications re Osprey I, LLC under P-13709. Here's the original application for preliminary permit and a link to the FERC notice (3 page PDF).

The existing New Mills Dam is currently not in use for hydropower production and has no FERC license. The last FERC license for New Mills Dam was surrendered 5/16/1996.

The New Mills Dam was originally constructed in the 1840s to provide water to an adjacent mill. The dam impounds water including Pleasant Pond, part of the impoundment area of the Dam, which abuts the City of Gardiner and the Towns of West Gardiner, Richmond, and Litchfield. Pleasant Pond was the primary water source for the Gardiner Water District until the 1950s, when the construction of the Maine Turnpike degraded the water quality. The District switched ultimately switched to two groundwater wells.

In 1974 the District obtained the New Mills Dam from the City of Gardiner, which had operated the Dam for nearly a century. The District constructed a hydro-electric facility at the dam in 1982, and sold its power through a contract with Central Maine Power Company from 1983 to 1994.

1994 brought change to the river. That year, CMP bought out the contract and the project's FERC license was surrendered. In 1997, the District initiated an action under the Maine Dam Abandonment Act to abandon the dam.

The dam was the subject of litigation in the late 1990s.

Is this a good site for the restoration of historic hydropower capacity? What forces and factors led to the dam's abandonment in the 1990s? In the ensuing years, have those forces gone away?


Seboomick said...

How can a Maine municipality just give away an asset such as a dam without soliciting bids?

Todd Griset said...

Good question. I suspect the answer is that the municipalities can't give the asset away -- but that a different approach will be taken here. The developer may be able to exercise a federal right of eminent domain to acquire the land rights required to develop this project. In this case, that could include some of the existing infrastructure.

The preliminary permit application doesn't spell out the details of how the developer would acquire the land rights, but eminent domain is likely in consideration.

Seboomick said...


Does that mean, under FERC, I can obtain an option on publicly held land, and intend to acquire via eminent domain? I recognize eminent domain in situations where there is no other feasible option, i.e. right-of-acquisition, for a project that positively impacts the public good. Typically, it is a small piece relative to the project. Under this circumstance, the taking is the project.

The easier question is whether you can obtain an option by just adding brain power?

Its seems unnerving that you determine fair value via experts as opposed to market forces.

Thanks for the thoughts,
Don Wyse

Douglas Watts said...

Good post, Todd. Thank you.

This app. hinges on fish passage. Without it, the project cannot move forward. With it, the project is too expensive to be feasible.

Tough nut to crack.

Post a Comment