June 25, 2010 - abandoned bridges, and paddling Merrymeeting Bay

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tidal thoughts today, following yesterday's E2Tech forum on ocean energy. E2Tech put on a great event, with speakers Beth Nagusky from state government, Des Fitzgerald of Principle Power, John Ferland of Ocean Renewable Power Company, and Bill Staby of Resolute Marine Energy. Thus all on one panel, we had developers of wind, tidal, and wave energy projects, plus a representative from the government.

Paddling back through time around the site of the former Merrymeeting Bay Bridge.

Gliding over Merrymeeting Bay

The Merrymeeting Bay Bridge was built in 1835 to connect Topsham with East Brunswick. Located near where the Androscoggin River flows into the Bay, the bridge provided a shortcut for commerce. Friends of Merrymeeting Bay have a great history page about the bridge. Bottom line: tolls barely exceeded maintenance costs, and the bridge was repeatedly and badly damaged by floods and ice. In 1896, the bridge was finally wiped out by the spring freshet, and was not rebuilt.

Today, you can still see the granite cribbing that was used to support the 24' wide wooden deck. Here's a shot of the stonework on the south side of Mustard Island:

Bay Bridge remains on the Bath side of Mustard Island

And on the north side:
Bay Bridge remains on the north side of Mustard Island

Right near this point, a very large fish (probably a striper or pike) roiled the water next to my boat, making a 48" diameter boil on the surface. Sturgeon were slapping down all around, and I flushed a great blue heron. There was also a splashy beaver.

Merrymeeting beaver

I'm interested in learning more about how it was decided to build the Bay Bridge back in the 1830s, and what it was like to spend an estimated $1 million in maintenance over 60 years on an asset that just barely broke even in a good year. I'll do some research, but I will be sure to return to the Bay for another firsthand look.

Mustard Island sandbar

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