Rick Poitras tossed bread Tuesday evening to ducks floating in the Presumpscot River, as he sat on a bench on the bank.

Hearing news of plans to remove a dam, Poitras thought water quality would improve. “It will be healthier without dams,” Poitras said about the river. “But it will certainly be smaller.”

In the hours after Westbrook’s Sappi paper mill announced it would remove the Cumberland Mills Dam to open the Presumpscot River to migratory fish, some Westbrook residents expressed concern about the possible changes it could bring to the river.

The plan is part of a preliminary agreement between the paper company and Friends of the Presumpscot River, American Rivers, the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If finalized, the dam would be removed and the waterway operational by May 2011.

An engineer with American Rivers said Tuesday fears about extremely low water levels are common when dams are removed, but unfounded. “It’s often a concern,” said Laura Wildman, “but there will be nothing too dramatic.”

Westbrook resident Jon Hebert said he thought removing the dam would spoil the scenery in downtown Westbrook.

“There’ll be a lot of people disappointed in what the river looks like after the dam is taken out,” Hebert said Wednesday morning. “It’ll be like a big brook. It’ll be lucky if its 25 feet wide.”

Ken Tuttle Sr. said a lower water level would expose some ugly sights. Tuttle also said canoeing and kayaking would be more difficult in the downtown stretch of the river.

“I don’t see it helping much,” he said Wednesday.

Brian Boothby also agreed that taking out the dam would lower the water and be detrimental to aesthetics. He said debris dumped in the river under the so-called “black bridge” would be exposed if the water level dropped.

“It looks better real high,” Boothby said about the river.

Poitras enjoys the quiet along the river, visiting the river two or three times daily. He said many people enjoy the walking trail.

The river also attracts anglers.

“A lot of nights it’s alive with fish,” Poitras said.

Cutline (Rick Poitras) Cutline (Ken tuttle) ? Ken Tuttle Cutline (Brian Boothby) – Brian Boothby


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