From Magic City Morning Star

Down the Road
Down the Road a Piece: A Little Dam History
By Milt Gross
Aug 26, 2007 - 9:01:09 PM

The following is an editorial written by Dick Fecteau of Farmington, which ran recently in other newspapers but which I think is important enough to also be read here at the Magic City Morning News. Dick, a friend to your Down the Road a Piece writer, has given his permission for its use here. Dick’s editorial, which is not necessarily the view of Magic City Morning News, but is of the column writer, follows:

If we really need "green power" so badly then we might as well rebuild the Edwards Dam across the Kennebec River in Augusta. Sound absurd? Well it is no more absurd than promoting industrial windpower development in the protected mountain areas of Maine.

The Land Use Regulation Commission created mountain protection areas in 1972 above 2700' for the simple reason that industrial development was not environmentally acceptable in the fragile alpine and subalpine areas of the Maine mountains.

The current rush to develop industrial wind power in the Maine mountains is reminiscent of the rush to build large hydroelectric dams on Maine rivers during the first half of the last century. Twentieth century politicians saw hydroelectric dams as a sign of progress and economic development much as politicians today see industrial windpower development as progressive and economically rewarding.

In 1922, the Bangor Hydro Electric Company got legislative approval from Maine politicians to dam the Union river above Ellsworth and create 13,000-acre Graham Lake by flooding parts of three towns. Land was purchased under the threat of eminent domain, roads were closed and work started on an earthen dam to impound the river four miles above the center of Ellsworth. Impounding the river to create Graham Lake was such a rush job that Bangor Hydro never even cut the trees about to be drowned. In the Spring of 1923, the impounded waters breached the hastily built earthen dam and flooded all of downtown Ellsworth, whole buildings were swept away which crashed into and broke steel bridges off their abutments along the Union River on Rt. 1 and Main street. Property damage totaled almost $8 million, at the time the most expensive disaster in Maine history. Lawsuits entailed which took over two years to settle and in the end the electric utility ratepayers footed the bill. This event marked the end of Ellsworth's prominence as a shipping center for Downeast Maine.

In 1949 Central Maine Power Company got permission from Maine politicians to dam the Dead river and create 20,000-acre Flagstaff lake for "the public benefit of hydroelectric power generation."Private property was purchased under the threat of eminent domain with legislative approval. Parts of five towns were flooded, three villages had to be moved along with all the graves in the local cemeteries. This time the politicians required that the trees be cut before flooding commenced. The brush was burned in immense fires that got out of control and burned out anyone that had dared to resist the political power of CMP. Property owners that had resisted selling to CMP and that were not burned out by the fires were flooded out when the waters held back by the new dam rose during the Spring of 1950. The Long Falls Dam, now owned by Florida Power and Light Company, that impounds Flagstaff lake has never produced electricity yet it still costs the electric utility ratepayers of FPL almost $1 million per year.

At a time in Maine history when we are realizing that damming Maine rivers was a mistake and dams are being removed at great cost to the taxpayers, we should not rush into rezoning protected mountain areas for industrial windpower development without seriously looking at the alternatives. How about installing turbines in the Long Falls Dam or restarting the biomass plants that were shut down when the price controls ran out?

Corporate interest in industrial windpower has much more to do with profits from taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies than the perceived benefits of "green power". If Maine politicians really want the environmental benefits of being "green," then they should start seriously promoting energy conservation before promoting ill-conceived industrial windpower development in the protected mountain areas of Maine.*

* Note by Milt Gross: By the “Maine Mountains,” Mr. Fecteau is referring to the Redington Range and Black Nubble Mountain northwest of Rangeley, where a large windpower proposal was turned down by LURC in its original form. Windpower likely is a good thing, but only where it does not create major disturbances. If I had lived in an area for 30 years, a quiet area off the beaten track perhaps, where I was finding a little solitude and freedom from the turbulent insanities of our society, I’m sure I would be very upset to learn a noisy bank of 400-foot-high wind towers was to be built within sight and sound of my home. I think it would be irresponsible for those living in some area away from my home -- this proposed windtower site -- to tell me I should give up all my home has meant to me to provide some alternate electricity. I already use alternate power, hydro power from Maine Clean Power in Portland, that comes to me via Bangor Hydro.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@midmaine.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2007 (First Rights)



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