Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Eugenie Francine’s Nov. 29 op-ed piece on removal of two Royal River dams (“Maine Voices: Royal River’s journey to future should begin with removal of lower dam”) makes the case for a free-flowing river eloquently, but dismisses the concerns of the advocates for the impoundment above the upper dam and for the harbor.
Water from the Royal River flows over the Bridge Street dam in Yarmouth, one of two dams the town is considering removing. A recent op-ed doesn’t give enough credence to concerns that dam removal could wash toxins into Yarmouth Harbor, a reader says.
2013 File Photo/John Patriquin
The users of the harbor depend on regular dredging. Public funds dredge the harbor and channel, the marinas dredge under their slips.
Ms. Francine takes lightly the prospect of silt washing into the harbor. There are many tens of thousands of cubic yards of muck behind the dams.
No one knows how quickly and how much of this silt will make its way to the harbor, but no one doubts it will do so sooner or later. The cost of removing this silt from the harbor must be included in any removal plan.
Prior to dredging, sediments are tested for contaminants to determine where they can safely be disposed. High levels of mercury and pyrene (a carcinogen) have been found in the river sediment. Removal of these dams will change the flow patterns of the river.
Whether these changes will wash toxins into, and spread them throughout, the harbor and estuary, no one knows. Unfortunately, should it happen, disposal of dredging spoils could become prohibitively expensive or impossible. That could mean the end of the harbor and the businesses that depend on it. Shellfish harvesters are surely concerned as well.
Ms. Francine says, “Consultants have found that dam removal will not add toxins to the harbor; the Royal River Conservation Trust believes these findings should be rigorously confirmed.”
At the moment, these toxins are concentrated in a relatively small area. The only rigorous way to confirm they will not be added to the harbor is to remove them before removing these dams.
Royal River changes could restore salmon population
A lot is happening in the Royal River watershed, so we were pleased to read Eugenie Francine’s Nov. 29 op-ed on the Royal River dams and to learn that the Royal River Conservation Trust has come on board for supporting dam removal (“Maine Voices: Royal River’s journey to future should begin with removal of lower dam”).
We wanted to make two points of clarification.
• First: Atlantic salmon were indeed once common in the Royal. The 1935 Report on the Fishes of New England states: “Atlantic salmon were common in the Royal River until 1800, and the last salmon was taken around 1853.”
• Second: The removal of the Randall Mills Dam in Pownal, which was alluded to in the column, was managed and funded by our organizations.
Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited led the project, using funds provided by the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Trout Unlimited’s national Embrace-a-Stream Program, the Sebago Chapter of TU and the Maine Trout Unlimited Council.
We could not have asked for a better landowner to work with than Fred Fauver, who serves on the board of the Royal River Conservation Trust.
The Royal is a gem of a river. The streams, rivers and lakes and adjacent lands in the watershed provide opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing and other outdoor pursuits just minutes from Portland.
Many groups, including the conservation trust and ours, are working in ways large and small to protect and restore the Royal River. We hope to see the town of Yarmouth and other government and conservation organizations commit to further steps to restore the river and its historic Atlantic salmon run.
Curtis Bohlen, Ph.D.
director, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership
(Continued on page 2)