June 23, 2010 - the history of the Trafton tide mills; Russia-Belarus gas dispute

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monday's paddle brought me through the remains of the Trafton tide mill. What I hadn't realized is that the eastern branch was home to another tide mill owned by the Trafton family.

From the Georgetown Historical Society's A History of Georgetown Island:

The lumber mill on the western branch, which was built by David Oliver and Thomas Trafton, continued to be operated into the first decade of the 20th century, and the mill dam can still be seen. David Oliver, Jr. had a son David of the 3rd generation (grandson of David and Grace). He and his wife, Hannah Stacy, came to Georgetown from Lynn, Massachusetts. He and his father, David Jr., and Thomas Trafton, built their first lumber mill on the eastern branch of the Cove on what is now the Indian Point Road. Later they built a second lumber mill on the west branch of the Cove Thomas Trafton also had a gristmill on the west bank of the western branch, near the former old Post Office at the bottom of the hill in Georgetown Center.

I found an interesting blog, Five Islands Orchard, which provides some more history and information. Apparently the students of the Georgetown elementary school are considering building a demonstration tidal mill at the western Trafton site. Blogger Ben Polito says he did a rough calculation of perhaps 1.4GJ of energy per tide, equivalent to about 390 kWh or 10 gallons of gas. While this might not seem like a lot of energy today -- particularly since harnessing it would likely require a $1 million-plus hydro facility -- the Trafton mill would have provided the energy equivalent of 300 laborers, all for a relatively low cost.

On the international energy news front: the conflict between Russia and Belarus over gas offers a classic example of how energy policy choices interface with national security. Russia's state-owned utility Gazprom first cut off 35% of Belarus's gas supply, then increased the cut to 70% of normal flows, over about $200 million in debt Belarus is said to owe. In response, Belarus has cited $260 million in unpaid tariffs as a reason cut off Russia's access to the international pipeline needed to get Russian gas to Europe. In today's interconnected world, states and nations rely on fuel supply and infrastructure in neighboring jurisdictions. Russia is dependent on Belarus's pipeline to deliver 20% of its total European exports, and Belarus is dependent on Russia for gas to power electric generation, industry, and (in winter) heating. Though this relationship provides each nation with resources it wouldn't otherwise have, friction in the relationship leads to periodic strife such as we see today. Some cite this downside risk as grounds for increased domestic self-reliance and energy security. Indeed, if the situation progresses to where Russia delivers no gas to Belarus, that nation will need to have an alternate fuel source and contingency planning to keep businesses and homes running.

Finally, hay is for horses: a Kennebec River hay farm, during first harvest.

From Energy Policy Update

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