On April 23, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order terminating hydroelectric power generating rights at the historic Sparkhawk Mill and the Bridge Street Dam on the Royal River in Yarmouth. This order, issued at the behest of the mill owner, which had found generating power there uneconomic and already removed the water-driven turbines, effectively confirms the economic and functional obsolescence of the old dam. The only function the dam and its unmaintained, also obsolete concrete fishway now serve is to block the passage of sea-run migratory fish like alewife and shad between the river and Casco Bay. The last Commission inspection, in 2015, noted signs of deterioration in the dam and the steel penstock linked to it diverting water to the mill turbines. With the dam owned by the Town and with the Commission’s ending of the Sparhawk Mill owner’s shared operating rights and responsibilities related to the dam, the future of the dam and any costs and liabilities its ownership engenders, now rest solely with the town. I believe it is time for the town to initiate a discussion and planning process with its citizens to find a cost effective, unharmful way of removing the dam. A soon-to-be-released river study prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may prove helpful in guiding such planning. Removal will be a major step forward towards beneficial restoration of the Royal River’s natural and rightful ecology and connection to the bay.

Bruce Drouin