August 27, 2010 - restoring old dams? sunken treasure

Friday, August 27, 2010

Storm over the Kennebec River near Dresden

Earlier this month, I wrote about the situation at Scribner's Mill on the Crooked River in Maine.  The Scribner's Mill Preservation Project is doing a great job of restoring the old sawmill located on the banks of the river.  Formerly, the sawmill was paired with a nine-foot dam that was breached in 1972; prior to dam breach, the impounded water fell through water wheels to power the mill directly.  The mill preservationists are again proposing to build a dam on the site to allow the mill to regain its status as a working water mill.  Two years ago, they proposed putting up a 4' dam; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection rejected their efforts.  Now they're proposing a 3' dam.

Arguments against rebuilding the dam include ones based on the importance of the Crooked River to the entire Sebago Lake ecosystem.  The Crooked River is the principal spawning habitat for the famous wild landlocked salmon in the lake.  Landlocks are the same species as Atlantic salmon, but spend their entire lives in fresh water.  Maine has a special fishery for wild landlocked salmon, and Sebago Lake is one of its most accessible waterbodies.  In addition to fisheries concerns, the Crooked River is also the principal surface inflow of water into the lake, which is the drinking source for about 200,000 people in Maine.

Last night, Maine Public Broadcasting Network ran a good story on the debate.

In other renewable news: following on the recent ORPC tidal energy turbine installation at a Coast Guard facility in Eastport, today the Coast Guard is raising a wind turbine at a Southwest Harbor facility.

Who doesn't love a tale of a forgotten shipwreck holding a sunken treasure?  During a blizzard in February 1944, the British freighter Empire Knight foundered on a covered reef near Boon Island off York, Maine.  The ship broke up and sank.  In 1990, the Coast Guard learned that the ship contained over 17,000 pounds of mercury.  Divers recovered a small portion of the mercury and contaminated material, but found that 16,000 pounds had escaped and was loose in a cargo hold.  The Coast Guard closed the site.  Now, a treasure hunter wants to recover the mercury in an environmentally responsible manner -- and also what he believes may be copper-platinum wire worth $200 million (a bit more valuable than the copper wire commonly stolen!), plus a "secret cargo" that could be worth from $10 million on up.

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