SAVE THE MOUSAM: KEEP THE KENNEBUNK DAMS UPDATED NEWS (Aug 6, 2017)
You may have been reading about the latest developments in keeping the Mousam River flowing for recreation and generating green hydro energy from our three Kennebunk dams. Some of that information is accurate but some is incomplete. This e-mail contains our most up-to-date information and gives a brief overview of next steps and how you can help in the five years we have to go in the licensing process. We have many more specific details that we’re happy to share or to answer your questions but we’d ask you to read this as a start.
What Are The The Facts and the Rumors
Kennebunk Light & Power, (KLPD), voted in June 2016 to not renew their license to produce hydropower and submitted that information to the federal agency responsible, (FERC – the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), for making the final decision on the dams future. That submission means that when the license expires in about five years, KLPD will no longer be allowed to operate the dams, even if they were to change their minds and want to continue. The filing, called an NOI (Notice of Intent) starts a review process that involves federal and state agencies and looks at the impact of this decision. For one of many examples, if the dams came down causing the river to largely dry up, there could be significant pollutants under the silt layer and that would need to be studied and cleaned up. KLPD is entirely responsible for the studies directed by FERC and any costs associated with remediation efforts. This process will take approximately five years and the ruling will be made by FERC.
The KLPD filing opened the door for other companies, agencies or the Town to step in and apply for a new license. Our Selectmen, to their credit, hired one of New England’s most experienced law firms, (Verrill Dana), to look into the implications, aware that townspeople voted overwhelmingly last November to both keep the dams and hydro production. A presentation was made to the Selectmen with the recommendation that an experienced engineering firm (Kleinschmidt) review the various existing reports. The purpose was to establish costs for keeping or removing the dams and, by extension, generating or ceasing to produce electricity. At another Selectmen meeting a day later, the Selectmen were given a proposal from Kleinschmidt. Rather than go ahead with this short inexpensive study, they decided that the Town did not want to get into the hydro generation business. So they asked for another proposal that limited the study to costs associated with either taking down or keeping the dams without electricity being generated. They will receive and discuss the new proposal at their next meeting August 8.
What Are The Implications?
Unfortunately the current stand of the Selectmen Board does little to help either save the dams or the river. In fact, it is actually a potential waste of taxpayers’ money because such examination of costs will automatically happen because KLPD is relinquishing their license and FERC will require such a study to be paid for by KLPD. Also, there are so many unknowns in dam destruction or retention. Cost estimates on either side can be wrong by millions of dollars if looked at in isolation without hydro generation. The initial proposal by the town’s lawyers was more comprehensive because, if our latest figures are correct (and the Kleinschmidt study could confirm these), it would be considerably cheaper to keep the dams, keep the river intact and continue to generate electricity (thus attracting new vendors).
There is a caveat in all of this that has to do with federal regulations. Once KLPD filed their Notice of Intent with FERC, individuals or groups have to submit their interest in taking over the license within 120 days (by September 11). The formal application doesn’t have to be submitted for a couple of years but if they haven’t done the preliminary filing, they are out of the running.
KLPD did look for firms interested in purchasing the dams several years ago. Several firms investigated further, but did not pursue a purchase. Recently, one company approached both KLPD and later the Selectmen. However, that firm wanted financial backing or guarantees which neither the District nor the Town wanted to provide. One difficulty is that firms who may have been interested had old figures that have since been revised to reflect much better financial gains from hydro generation and our own figures are even rosier. We are confident that if we can get the new figures verified independently by Kleinschmidt, there are several hydro operators who will be interested in taking over.
Where Do We Go From Here and How Can You Help?
We’ve been busy as a Steering Committee behind the scenes compiling numbers, contacting agencies and companies, studying regulations and even incorporating, i.e., becoming a non-profit LLC. We’ve paid for legal advice and regularly go to both KLPD and Selectmen meetings. We have solid leads on companies who, once figures are verified, could come forward and save our river and dams. We recently sent a representative to the National Hydropower Association’s Northeast Regional Meeting to gather additional information. That being said, we’re a totally voluntary, self-funded citizen’s group up against a powerful and wealthy lobbying colossus whose aim is to remove every dam in the U.S. They have already spent millions of dollars in their efforts nationally.
If you want to keep our river’s footprint for recreation such as kayaking and canoeing, protect our cheap renewable energy source and protect the environment that has existed for over 200 years, we need your help:
- Write or contact your Selectmen and ask them to have the Kleinschmidt engineering firm review the numbers in all the reports including hydro generation. The contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you know of any hydropower companies that could be interested in our dams, please contact us.
- Come to the meetings of the Selectmen and KLPD.
- Donate a few tax deductible dollars to Save The Mousam: Keep the Kennebunk Dams.
- Ask us questions and we’ll try to get you answers.
- Enjoy the wonderful resource that is OUR river.
The 7/20 meeting may be viewed in full at: http://townhallstreams.com/stream.php?location_id=49&id=12361
Only the first hour of the 7/21 meeting may be viewed at: http://townhallstreams.com/stream.php?location_id=49&id=12469
Thank you for your ongoing support and interest,
Save the Mousam: Keep Our Dams
Now let’s make our town officials HONOR THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE!
The Kennebunk Light & Power Company Board voted to surrender the federal license they have to generate hydro electricity on their three Kennebunk dams. This will result in the Mousam River turning into the muddy creek shown above on the right. The Town of Kennebunk, State and Federal officials will become involved but we wanted to present on this website the consequences of losing renewable green energy, increasing our electric bills, damaging tourism and creating potentially toxic mud to leach into the environment. The decision was pushed primarily by outside groups whose game plan is to have every dam in Maine destroyed. While this may help water quality in some areas, you’ll find that a key rationale is to add more baitfish for fishermen. Please educate yourself here so you can help create a more logical approach to an important issue for those of us living in Kennebunk.