YARMOUTH — The New England branch of the Army Corps of Engineers has determined the federal Army Corps is interested in making improvements to the Royal River, including the possible removal of two dams.

Findings from two studies completed by Army Corps New England – including an overview and the estimated cost with local share – were included during a virtual presentation to town officials Nov. 10.

The Royal River in Yarmouth Courtesy / Andy Smith-Petersen

One study looked at reestablishing natural fish passage through the Elm Street and Bridge Street dams, which have nonfunctioning fish ladders.

Resident Colin Durant wrote in support of the proposal to the Town Council Nov. 9 and said, “We know from experience in Maine that removal of ineffective and inefficient dams is enormously rewarding for the health of a river, for species restoration, and brings many additional benefits to the surrounding community.”

The Royal River Alliance, a pro-dam removal and river restoration group comprised of local Maine residents, also weighed in. In a letter to the Town Council and Town Manager Nat Tupper from Christine Force and Carl Wilcox, co-chairpersons of the board of directors, both their excitement and concern about the prospective plans were addressed.

The RRA was pleased overall with the USACE finding merit in proceeding with an ecological restoration project on the Royal and offering to partner in the next steps on such a project,” Force and Wilcox said in the letter. “However, the RRA was disappointed by USACE’s high estimate of the costs involved in completing a further feasibility study and in actually undertaking a restoration project.”

The cost estimated by the Army Corpse for a further study, not including actual river restoration, is $660,000, of which the town would pay $330,000.

A second study examined restoration of the Royal River shore at the end of Harborview Drive, an old dredge material disposal site from the 1960s and 1970s. Tupper said the town has little interest in pursuing that project.

“We’re talking about a couple acres, a lot of expense, very little value and quite a bit of risk because they’re old materials from long before there were environmental controls,” he said.

The town of Yarmouth requested a feasibility study from the Army Corps of Engineers back in 2013, when the Town Council was initially interested in restoring natural flow and fish passage to the river. Now that the Corps has established federal interest, the council has to decide if the community should pursue one or both of these studies. There is no time limit on the decision.

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