Farmington selectmen support dam removal at Waltons Mill
A proposal from the Atlantic Salmon Federation to remove the dam and make improvements to Walton's Mill Pond Park still will need approval from voters.
RACHEL OHM, STAFF WRITER
July 10, 2018
FARMINGTON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night voted to support a $1.2 million proposal from the Atlantic Salmon Federation to remove the Walton’s Mill Dam and upgrade a surrounding public park, at no cost to the town.
Approval was 4-1, with Selectman Matthew Smith voting against the proposal.
The project also is subject to voters’ approval. A referendum on it probably would occur in November.
The town is currently in violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act because the old dam is blocking salmon from traveling up Temple Stream to spawn.
“The federal government could demand we do something at any moment,” Town Manager Richard Davis said. “Right now we have an opportunity to take advantage of funding at no cost to the town. With all the other needs we have, it’s very difficult to think about spending $750,000 of taxpayer money to fix a dam and install a fish ladder.”
The Atlantic Salmon Federation is offering to remove the dam as well as work with the town to redesign Walton’s Mill Pond Park and set aside $20,000 for the town to use for future repairs and maintenance.
If the proposal is not accepted, the town’s other option for complying with federal law would be to spend an estimated $750,000, likely of taxpayer money, to build a fish passageway and leave the dam in place.
Smith said he voted not to support the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s proposal because he thinks the town is being bullied into the decision.
“They’ve expected us to make a certain decision,” Smith said. “I understand it would be expensive to build a fish passageway, but it’s still our choice.”
The federation’s plans include upgrades to the park such as a new pavilion, bathroom facilities and added trails.
Three public meetings already have been held on the topic, and more will be planned before the referendum, selectmen said.