The Twine Mill Dam on  the Mousam River in Kennebunk  on May 11. Dan King photo

KENNEBUNK – The Kennebunk Light & Power District Board of Trustees has scheduled a meeting next month to discuss options, now that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rejected a bid by America First Hydro, LLC, of Mahopac, New York, to license three dams on the Mousam River.

In the meantime, consultants Kleinschmidt and Associates was to give a presentation on the matter to the Kennebunk Select Board in an online meeting Tuesday evening, May 12, after the Post’s print deadline.

The dams – Kesslen, Dane Perkins and Twine Mill – are owned and licensed by Kennebunk Light & Power. Kesslen and Dane Perkins are reportedly not in operation, while Twine Mill operates intermittently.  The license expires in March, 2022. In 2016, prior to the emergence of America First Hydro, KLPD trustees voted to surrender the license.

In an April 29 letter rejecting the application, the FERC Office of Energy Projects wrote that the application “patently fails to conform to the requirements of the Commission’s regulations and must be rejected.”

It detailed several deficiencies, including required studies on the project’s effects on the environment, fish passage, wildlife and wildlife habitat, cultural resources and other factors, including an economic analysis. On May 1 America First Hydro withdrew its application.

While KLPD awaits contact from FERC, those who would like to see the dams removed and those who would like to see them remain each expressed their views in recent interviews.

No decisions have been made at this juncture. Kennebunk Light & Power trustees are to discuss the matter in a closed-door session with their attorney on June 2. General Manager Todd Shea said he believes a public session will be held on June 30.

John Burrows and Kevin Flynn, both with the Mousam and Kennebunk Alliance, believe the dams should be removed and that doing so would be less costly for the power district than maintaining them and possibly being required by FERC to install fish ladders.

Burrows said the river alliance has advocated for the removal of the dams from the beginning,

“These dams are causing tremendous harm to the Mousam River,” said Burrows, citing impacts to fisheries and water quality. “They should be removed.”

Burrows said dams have been removed from river in dozens of other Maine communities.

“We think the dams should be removed and we could have an amazing resource from Old Falls to the ocean, (with) river herring, shad, improved wildlife, birds – a much healthier river system,” he said.

Flynn, who canoes the river, said its cleanliness has improved in the past 35 years, and that below the dams, fish are plentiful.

“If the dams were removed, it would greatly increase the sport fishing on the river,” said Flynn.. “It’s a pretty remarkable ecosystem.”

He said striped bass is a popular fishery in the Mousam River in the area of Parsons Beach to Rogers Pond, and sea run brown trout that live in the tidal part of the river.

Albert Kolff, of Keep the Kennebunk Dams, Save the Mousam, LLC, said he hopes some other company might express interest.

“My hope is FERC will re-advertise for a response from some other hydro company to have an interest in applying for the license,” as he said FERC did when the power district trustees voted its original intent to surrender the licenses.

On its website, the Save the Mousam group wrote of consequences of dam removal, including, ” loss or reduction of renewable green energy resulting in an increase in our electric bills; loss of recreational areas enjoyed by residents and tourists; exposure of potentially toxic mud to leach into the environment; and the loss of a beautiful scenic centerpiece in the town of Kennebunk.”

In an interview last week, Shea said the utility can buy power for less money than it costs to generate.

On Tuesday, May 5, Kennebunk Light & Power voted to take advantage of lower rates, and locked in at $47.41 per megawatt, which includes energy only, through 2025. Currently the power district pays $55.40 per megawatt for energy, plus additional amounts for capacity and other fees. Customers pay for the energy they use, delivery and other fees required by the Public Utilities Commission.

“It’s great for us and the ratepayers,” said David Cluff, chair of the power district board of trustees.

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