Florida Power & Light, an electric utility company with dams on the Saco River, is offering to build a boat launch to the river in Standish.

In a workshop Tuesday, councilors didn’t commit to the FPL project, raising some concerns about traffic, both on Varney Mill Road and the river itself, town liability for swimming and boating there and costs for upkeep in the future.

The Florida-based utility company is offering to build a rugged, low maintenance facility that will then be leased to the town of Standish at no cost. In addition the electricity giant would provide any repairs over $500 per year that were necessary. Ernest DeLucca, FP&L spokesperson noted that Standish could offset any expenses at the facility by charging user fees for boats and/or swimming.

FPL is required as a part of federal relicensing of the Bonny Eagle Hydroelectric Project to provide public access for recreation on facilities owned by the power company. If Standish rejects the offer, FPL would probably seek another site that might be in Hollis or another area town.

The specific land chosen by FP&L has access from Varney Road off River Road. The access road would be close to one-half mile long. The stretch of water is about eight to nine miles long and the launch area is mid-way in the expanse. Bonny Eagle Dam is between four and five miles downstream from the launch site.

DeLucca repeatedly told the council that without the town being actively involved, the utility would not go ahead with the project. He also said that the town could design the facility and it would be up to Standish and the Saco River Corridor Commission to decide what is feasible and acceptable on the river location. Standish would decide what is best for the community.

DeLucca said that an environmental study would be conducted and the results given to the Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries. He noted that FP&L would shoulder all the costs associated with the project design and approval.

Several councilors raised questions about the town accepting the offer, but urged Linda Brooks, Standish Recreation Director, to persue the idea and come back to the council with her recommendations.

Brooks said she was excited about the opportunity for additional passive recreation sites in Standish, and felt the town would be remiss if they did not consider the offer.

Among concerns the town wants to consider are the increased traffic on secondary roads around the site, increased river traffic on an already congested river, power boat prohibitions and/or restrictions, costs to the town for security and upkeep and the potential for swimming at the site. Increased liability was also mentioned as a possible reason for the town to turn down the electric utility.

Councilor Larry Simpson asked the council to take a hard look at the number of issues already facing the council.

“Let’s look at where our priorities are. I see this as a low use – high liability,” said Simpson.

A public hearing on the launch idea will be set up for a future council workshop. A site walk of the area will not be feasible until sometime in May

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