KENNEBUNK – Select Board Chair Blake Baldwin said the municipal government is keeping an eye on the pending sale of three dams currently licensed by Kennebunk Light and Power District to America First Hydro LLC of Mahopac, New York.

The Twine Mill Dam on the Mousam River in West Kennebunk. Daniel King

Trustees of KLPD, the consumer-owned local utility, in December voted to transfer the licenses and assets (the dams) to America First Hydro. The two entities will jointly apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a transfer of the licenses to AFH, said KLPD general manager Todd Shea on Friday, Jan. 30.

He said the transfer of the licenses would take place pending an affirmative decision by FERC. Shea said the timeline is pegged at 60 to 90 days after the district makes its application, which he said he expects will happen within a few weeks.

The dams include  Kesslen, Twine Mill and Dane Perkins. The three dams owned and operated by KLPD are located at sites that have had dams since the 18th century, and the stretch of the Mousam River where they’re located has long provided power for a wide variety of mills and factories, states  a history of dam construction prepared for KLPD in 2015 by consultant  Bruce Harvey.  As the technology of dam construction changed through the 20th century, the older dams were replaced with more modern examples, Harvey wrote.

“Over the years, the board has determined it was a very expensive proposition to maintain (the dams), to go through licensing and to upgrade the dams,” Shea said.

The Kesslen Dam, alongside the Lafayette Center, in downtown Kennebunk. Daniel King

The sale of the three dams, for $1, will be in  “as is, where is,” condition with no warranties Shea explained. KLPD would then buy back power generated by AFH for a period of 20 years. According to a January 2020 report on the KLPD website, the price is set at .08535 per kilowatt hour.

Baldwin at the Jan. 29 Select Board meeting said the town has not been a party to the sale and that the municipal government’s legal position has been that “we do not have a position in all this.” But, said Baldwin, residents have expressed concern, and so the Select Board asked Town Attorney Natalie Burns to advise them.

Blake said about a dozen people have asked how KLPD is disposing of the assets without a town vote, since he said, Section 10 of the state law that established the district in 1951 appears to require one.

Section 10 addresses the powers and duties of trustees and states, in part: “Nothing in this act shall be construed as authorizing said trustees to sell, lease or otherwise dispose of the whole of any part of the franchise or properties of said district necessary or useful in the performance of its duties to the public unless first authorized by majority vote of the town of Kennebunk to do so.”

Burns, who first met privately with the Select Board in a closed-door session, was invited to address the public meeting.

“This provision does not mean all sales of property belonging to KLPD have to be presented to the town for approval,” said Burns. “A determination has to be made it is necessary or useful in the performance of the district duties. I am sure it is a difficult analysis… it is a restriction on that provision… Not everything necessarily has to go to town meeting. It is an issue we will look at as it goes forward.”

The future of the dams  has been the subject of keen interest in the KLPD district for the past couple of years.

AFH had first applied for licenses to operate the dams once the KLPD licenses expired in March of 2022.

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