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March 22, 2018: Public Meeting Summary

By: Douglas Watts

Thursday night, March 22, Roger Wheeler and I, Douglas Watts, represented FOSL at a public meeting held by S.D. Warren for removing the Saccarappa dam on the Presumpscot River in downtown Westbrook. The meeting was held in the Westbrook High School auditorium. We did not learn of this meeting until March 20th. As a news reporter, I can say that some times the story is what didn’t happen, rather than what happened.

Roger and I were among about 15 people in attendance; all were in favor of removing the dam and making the river free-flowing again. Nobody spoke in opposition to the dam removal. Those who did speak wanted to know why it can’t happen faster. Having been involved in river restoration in Maine and Mass. for 25 years, I have never seen a ‘smoother’ public meeting; most often there are dozens or hundreds of people in opposition to taking out an old mill dam in the center of town. This meeting was remarkable for its complete lack of controversy. As such, Roger and I did not say much at all; there was no need. I think this is largely because the community has made the ‘jump’ in the past 15 years to recognizing the Presumpscot River as a natural asset, and not just a conveyance for waste (as it was for a century).

FOSL is a huge part of this change in attitude due to our steady advocacy of restoring the connection between Casco Bay and Sebago Lake from FOSL’s inception in 1992 and our active educational and legal involvement on the Presumpscot since 1999. For our FOSL founders and members who are no longer with us in body but in soul we know they would approve of FOSL’s continuing advocacy for restoring the entire Presumpscot River and Sebago Lake’s natural fishery. Their presence is truly missed.

We  did ask that the Sappi plan for Sebago Lake water levels provide for adequate storage during times when low flows in the river are required for dam removal and fishway construction.

We continue to be a watchdog .  On March 23rd SAPPI filed before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  The S.D. Warren Company’s Application for License Surrender for the Saccarappa Project No. 2897.  Their application has several new and unacceptable conditions that eliminate fish passage.  FOSL will file a response to FERC.  FOSL gives a “damn.”