Members of the local business community are calling for the state to dredge the Songo River of debris because they believe it will help bring down high water levels.

Barbara Clark, executive director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, said at a press conference Tuesday that accumulated sand and submerged trees are displacing the water and hurting the businesses near the shore.

“The recent storm has only played into the habit,” said Clark. She said the materials in the riverbed make it prone to flooding year after year.

Will Harris, director of Maine’s bureau of parks and lands, disagreed, saying that the storm is the sole reason for the flooding. He said the average April rainfall for the area is three and a half inches, and this year there was nine inches.

Harris said the Songo River is draining as quickly as it can without causing flooding downstream. The Songo River flows through a dam into Sebago Lake, which feeds the Presumpscot River into the Atlantic Ocean.

“There’s only so much water that can go through at a time,” he said.

The dam is allowing seven and a half times the normal amount of water into Sebago Lake right now, and Harris said if they allowed any more the Presumpscot River would overflow.

Harris said the steady flow of water is scouring a lot of the sand away.

The business community disagrees.

“Right now the river is plugged, and that’s the reason we’re not getting good drainage,” said Frank Garrish, owner of the Songo River Queen pleasure boat that tours the river. He said he doesn’t know how much it would cost to dredge the river, but said the canal was dug out by hand and needs regular maintenance.

Carl Talbot, who steers the Songo River Queen, said a large sandbar has formed next to the Naples Causeway that he needs to zigzag around. He said the causeway has been flooded for the past two years in a row, but only one additional time in the last 35 years.

He said the flooding has kept him from performing yearly maintenance on the vessel this year.

Bob Mason, owner of Interspace Services, an underwater contracting service that works with the Army Corps of Engineers, said he does a lot of dredging projects and recommends a $80,000 hydrographic survey to get a clear picture of what the Songo River looks like under the waves.

Mason said a typical dredging project costs $20 to $40 for a cubic yard of river, but doesn’t know what dredging all five miles of the Songo River would cost. He said it would be appropriate to acquire funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because of the storm.

Rep Richard Cebra (R-Naples) called the Songo River the “lifeblood of the region.” He said the flooding is hurting the local businesses just before tourist season begins.

“The state should pony up,” he said.

Causeway1-2: Scott Allen, co-owner of the Naples Marina, steers a boat past the eroded shore of the Songo River. He said the river needs to be dredged of the of the sand and trees the flooding pulled into the river.Causeway1-2: Scott Allen, co-owner of the Naples Marina, steers a boat past the eroded shore of the Songo River. He said the river needs to be dredged of the of the sand and trees the flooding pulled into the river.Causeway3-4 Some businesses along the Songo River are still flooded. The owners say the river is so full of debris that it couldn’t handle the waters from the recent storm. Causeway3-4 Some businesses along the Songo River are still flooded. The owners say the river is so full of debris that it couldn’t handle the waters from the recent storm. Causeway5 Barbara Clark, executive director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine ask for government help in cleaning the Songo River at a press conference Tuesday.


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