March 16, 2010

With final preparations, dam ready for removal


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Staff photo by Jim Evans COMING DOWN: The Fort Halifax Dam in Winslow is brought down bit by bit Tuesday while Doug Dulac, Waterville, watchs. "The ruined by fishing spot," he said. The dam is expected to breached sometime today.

Blethen Maine News Service

WINSLOW — It looks like a breaching, but it's not.

The work being done at Fort Halifax Dam on Tuesday was all just part of the preparations for its removal, which will begin today or Thursday.

A hoe-ram -- essentially an excavator armed with a hydraulic hammer -- battered the concrete spillways on the downstream side below the crest of the dam, while an excavator continued to build an access road in front of the dam.

F. Allen Wiley, spokesman for dam owner FPL Energy, said in order for the breaching to start today workers had to remove a metal gate -- known as an Overmyer gate -- that is used to regulate water flow over the dam.

Wiley expected demolition crews would complete that job Tuesday so that breaching could commence this morning.

The reservoir created by the dam will fall about two feet a day during what is expected to be a week-long breaching of the 100-year-old hydroelectric facility on the Sebasticook River.

A drawdown of the reservoir started about two weeks ago, a step FPL Energy took at the request of the Winslow Planning Board over a concern that a steep bank on Dallaire Street could collapse with a more aggressive drop in the water level.

So far, though, a geo-engineering firm monitoring the stability of the slope has detected no significant movement in the soil.

Sebago Technics has said the most likely time for the bank to slump would be the first day the dam is breached.

FPL Energy agreed to pay the six households with homes along the Dallaire Street slope $250 a day to vacate their houses once dam removal begins.

Wiley said he met with Dallaire Street residents Monday night and handed out checks for $750, or enough to cover three days away from home.

He said he met with all but one of the households impacted and that Winslow Town Council Chairman Jerry Saint Amand offered to deliver the check to the absent resident.

''I'm not aware of anybody who elected to stay,'' Wiley said.

Saint Amand, however, said that several residents told him they might pick and choose what nights they vacate their homes.

One of the issues Dallaire Street residents have discovered, he said, is hotel rooms are in short supply in the area because the Maine International Film Festival has attracted an influx of people to the area.

The film festival, which takes place in Waterville, started Friday and runs through Sunday.

Saint Amand plans to keep in close contact with Dallaire Street residents during the entire dam removal process.

''I'm visiting with the residents every night,'' he said, ''and delivering checks to them from FPL Energy and just keeping up on the situation.''

Saint Amand said he is sad to see the dam go but blames no one.

''I've always felt from day one it was a shame that there was the possibility of losing Fort Halifax Dam,'' he said, ''but I've always felt and still do that it was a corporate decision on FPL's part.''

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