Salmon meeting elicits both concern and support

DAILY BULLDOG - Farmington, ME

Atlantic Salmon meeting elicits both concern and support

Posted by Amber Kapiloff
February 21, 2018

FARMINGTON - A final draft of the Walton's Mill Dam project report was presented to the public Wednesday night after being open for comments since early December. The finalized edition of the report saw only minor changes from the draft and will be available for closer review at the town office within the next few weeks.

The research process has been underway for about a year now, addressing the dam and Temple Stream - areas that were designated critical habitat for the endangered Atlantic salmon by the National Marine Fisheries in 2009.

"It really is phenomenal habitat for the salmon. For the recovery of this species in Maine, Temple Stream is a high priority site," Atlantic Salmon Federation representative John Burrows told the crowd of 30.

The report included an outline of two different options for the dam- a complete removal of the historic structure, or the construction of a fish ladder along one side. While the town does have the option of voting against interfering with the dam at all, Burrows said it could be a potential liability for the town due to the endangered status of the salmon and the condition of the dam.

The proposed fish ladder, a Denil model, would cost around $380,000 and would require repairs to the dam prior to construction which would cost roughly $350,000. This option would not receive funding and would need to be paid for by the town.

If the town decided to remove the dam, the estimated costs would be around $400,000. Burrows said ASF is ready to raise and invest this money in the project, as well as in improvements to the surrounding park, estimated at $455,000. An engineer from Richardson and Associates gave the crowd an overview of potential park design options, including improvements to the parking lot, making the area more handicap-accessible and incorporating a historical representation of the dam. The total cost of the project, covered by secured funding, would be $1.2 million.

The discussion raised concern from some residents, support from others.

Many long-time residents view the dam as an important historical landmark. Others are skeptical that removing the dam would truly have the resurgent affect on the salmon population that the ASF says it will. Some just enjoy Temple Stream the way it is now- used for kayaking and canoeing and wish to keep it a place of active exploration.

For those in support of the removal of the dam, the option seems obvious- a completely paid for project that would bring a new and improved park and would contribute to the reestablishment of the salmon population.

"I was very opposed to this idea when it first came up. But now we have the option of spending $720,000 of tax payers money or infusing $1.2 million into the town for improvements. Who knows, it might even be a national attraction some day," Town Manager Richard Davis said.

The next steps will be securing the potential funds if voters were to pass the dam removal and then bringing the conversation to a vote- most likely at next year's annual town meeting, Davis said.

"This is going to require a lot of input. It won't happen immediately and it won't be five selectmen sitting in a room making the decisions," Davis said.