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*Note: Questions and Answers are being compiled ongoingly. If you have a question, click the ‘Contact’ tab to submit. Please check back for continuous additions.  

 

1. What is this project about? 

This project examines the feasibility of repairing, or removing, the dam near the Main Street bridge in downtown Dover-Foxcroft.  At the end, the steering committee will make recommendations to the Select Board for further action. 

2. Why is the town doing anything at all about the dam? 

The dam and powerhouse are in need of a lot of expensive work - somewhere between $2 million and $4 million dollars.  In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is insisting that this work be done almost immediately, whether or not the town intends to produce power again. 

3. Who from the town worked on this project and why were they chosen? 

The town chose a steering committee that was small enough to accomplish a lot of work, yet large enough to fairly represent a good cross section of the community. Some members are from the Select Board, one represents the Business Community, another is from the Historical Society and Planning Board and one who is an independent civil engineer.  All live or work near the river. 

4. Why aren't there any business owners, or riverfront landowners on the Steering Committee? It seems the Steering Committee is pretty heavily weighted to Selectboard members, which makes the process of recommending to the Selectboard tilted toward a foregone conclusion. 

The Executive Director of the Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce is on the Steering Committee in order to represent the business community. Of the six members of the committee, five live or work in riverside neighborhoods (three from West Main Street and two from South Street). The committee composition reflects a 50/50 split between Select Board members and private citizens. The Select Board consists of seven members, three of whom also serve on the Steering Committee. 

5. Why did the town choose its current partners - the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC)? 

The town actively looked for partners in the project without much success. They finally put out a Request for Proposals to several parties.  The only response was from the Atlantic Salmon Federation and The Nature Conservancy.   

6. Aren't ASF and TNC biased towards removing the dam? 

We understood that they have an interest in restoring the ecology of the river to its natural state.  The Steering Committee was well aware of that and took that into consideration in their work. However, the feasibility report incorporated criteria set and determined by the committee.  The committee was satisfied that the near 1,000 pages of material presented and considered was fairly prepared and presented. 

7. What will the Steering Committee recommend? 
 

We looked at a total of 23 options ranging from simply repairing the dam and powerhouse, all the way to removing the dam.  We had two finalists; the first was to remove the dam and replace it with a "nature like fishway" that would keep the impoundment. The second was to remove the dam and return the river to its natural flow.  After much consideration, the committee has unanimously arrived at a preliminary recommendation for the Select Board to consider the removal of the dam and add extensive landscaping to create a new and exciting gathering place for the downtown area.  Read our recommendation report here: 

 

8. Why did you make that decision? 

We considered almost a dozen criteria in making this choice.  The biggest factors were flood control, the ecology, including fish passage, the chance to make a really good public gathering place in downtown, all with the least (or even potentially no) cost to the town. 

 

9. Is there some way the Town could pursue both options at the same time? For instance, if the Town's people wanted to pursue the nature-like fishway (NLF) approach, could that AND dam removal be pursued and if money found for the NLF approach go with it, but if not, at least we'd have the dam removal option still available? 

 

The final two options considered by the Steering Committee -- dam removal or construction of the NLF -- both require removal of the existing dam. 

 

10. Taking the dam out will make the river look crappy.   
 

A big part of the planned project is to carefully restore the riverbanks to a natural state, including eliminating a lot of invasive species. The committee took a trip to a recently removed dam (near Farmington) and spent a long time with the local folks who testified that within about a year the landscape was returned to normal. 

 

11. What is the river level drop for the two scenarios? 

At the dam face the drop will be approximately 12 feet.  Further upstream the drop will decrease until at the site of the old waterworks dam above the 4 seasons adventure rail trail there will be no drop. 

 

12. The sound of the dam and water running over it will be missed. 

From the old waterworks (upstream to about the River Grove Cemetery down to the dam, the river drops about 12 feet. Those natural falls will likely provide their own soothing sounds. There is also a ledge outcrop beneath the dam because the dam was built upon natural falls, which when restored, it’s expected it will provide their own soothing sounds of falling water 

 

13. Doesn’t removal of the dam do violence to our history? ​

In the mid-1800's the dam provided power for the woolen mill, a saw mill, a shingle mill and an iron foundry.  All of those industries are long gone. The dam has served its purpose. We now have a chance to repurpose that property to serve our town for another 150 years.  We do intend to maintain good interpretative materials as part of the renovations.   People will not lose the memory of the dam. 

 

14. The view looks like it will drastically change. 
 

The view will change.   However, before the dam was built in the 1820's, there were natural falls in this part of the river.  They will once again be exposed, providing their own extraordinary view and continuing to make the soothing sound of falling water. 

 

15. Norton's reading at the November 16 meeting from Stevens’ book described falls that could be seen from the knoll. Will those natural falls be part of the river in the dam removal scenario? 

Yes, those falls will be again visible - as they were for the thousands of years before the founding of the towns. 

 

16. Are there any photos anywhere of what the river looked like before the dam? If not, using the description from Louis Stevens’ book, could a reasonable facsimile be made? 

 

The earliest photos we have of the dam date to approximately 1860(?).  We do know that very early deeds indicated that the area west of approximately Center Theatre was an island! We have photos of the bridge which spanned this channel until about 1920. Copies of photos in the Historical Society are always available.  We intend to provide good signage in the completed project to include lots of photos and history. 

17. There is not as much easily identifiable and readily available money for non-dam removal alternatives, but ASF and TNC are willing to support us if we want to go that route, it's just riskier in terms of finding all the money needed. That's not perfect, but somehow it feels different. 

 

Your observation is essentially correct. It is not perfect, but it is reality. 

 

18. I am remembering multiple numbers from the [November 16] meeting.  Is the total amount that 'The Partners' will put up $12 million?  Including the dam removal, the river restoration, the new riverbank cleanup and the establishment of the park and walking paths. 

Total projected costs for dam removal and all the landscaping amount to almost $20,000,000.  We would expect our partners to help find those funds - mostly from the "once in a generation" federal funding now available. The partners, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and The Nature Conservancy, are not pledging to "put up" $12 million from their own financial resources. What they have pledged to do is to help the Town of Dover-Foxcroft through the entire fundraising process, and they have expressed full confidence that the needed funds can be raised through a variety of sources, with no cost to the town. The partners can provide assistance to secure funding both to remove the dam (estimated cost of $6 million) and to restore the river's natural environment and invest in the landscape enhancements needed to establish a park and walking trails (another $6 million), so the $12 million figure is accurate. One of the major sources of project funding will be through the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Restoration Center. NOAA officials have stated that dam removal that results in improved fish passage and habitat restoration is the agency's highest priority. NOAA funds can be used for dam removal, and also for restoring public access and creating public spaces along the river. In addition to NOAA, potential sources of external funding exist through a number of other federal and state government programs. 

19. The 'word on the street', and even comments made in the meetings, lead people to think that ASF and TNC will fully fund dam removal, no questions asked, but will only provide assistance if any other option is selected. That makes it sound like blackmail, and creates ill will. That same process can be described very differently and create a very different feeling. Something like: ASF and TNC have donors who have already expressed willingness to fund dam removal. 
 

Neither ASF or TNC will fully fund anything, but their expertise in grant writing will give Dover-Foxcroft access to both federal and state funding, as well as private philanthropic dollars. Our partners have expressed strong confidence in the ability to attract adequate funding for dam removal, but have also said they will help explore funding for the more expensive Nature Like Fishway option if that solution is chosen by the town. Grant funding is more readily available for the dam removal option simply because federal funders and private environmental groups place a strategic importance on dam removal to improve fish passage and habitat restoration. Dam removal provides the best, most comprehensive fish passage for the greatest number of species, including Atlantic salmon, at multiple life stages.  Dam removal is the only option which removes all points of concern in Dover-Foxcroft from the 100-year flood map.   Dam removal projects are the most fundable because of the highest ability to impact ecological restoration and climate resiliency and therefore, dam removal compete the strongest in national competitions for federal money and with private donors and foundations. Dam removal is the cheapest / least expensive option to construct and does not require further ongoing monitoring nor operation and maintenance costs. The Committee is aware of the interests of ASF and TNC and are really satisfied that ASF and TNC have conducted themselves with the utmost honesty, integrity and professionalism throughout this process. 

 

20. There is ongoing expense for the Town to monitor the success of the fish passage in the NFL approach. Isn't that also required in the case of dam removal? Promotion and maintenance of the 'park' would be an ongoing expense to the Town in either case, wouldn't it? What other ongoing expenses are there in each of the approaches? 

Monitoring of fish passage by the Town is not required if the dam is removed and the Piscataquis River is restored to its natural, free-flowing course. The creation of a riverside park would require ongoing maintenance for the town, as is the case with any municipal park or recreation facility. The dam removal option provides the lowest maintenance requirements and lifecycle costs of any alternatives reviewed by the Steering Committee. The NLF option, which also requires dam removal, would require monitoring of fish passage to ensure safe, timely and effective passage. The NLF structure would still be regulated as a dam and fishway, subject to regulatory inspections and requirements from state and federal agencies. Ongoing repairs and maintenance of the NLF could include adding rock material if the fishway is scoured out or if the fishway crest needs adjustments to meet impoundment water level goals. 

21. Will there be any property tax implications for the landowners that are directly affected by the change? Reduction because of 'poorer' waterfront? Increase because of additional property? 

Research conducted in New England on previous dam removal sites show that dam removal resulted in increased property value for river proximity, making houses near undammed rivers more attractive for property owners. Dam removal will lower the flood level and reduce the flood hazard zone, removing businesses and homes from the FEMA flood hazard zone and alleviating requirements for mandatory flood insurance. General considerations of flood damage avoidance suggest that, on average, for every dollar spent on damage avoidance approximately 6 to 12 dollars of voided repair costs are realized (e.g., Multi-Hazard Mitigation Council 2019).  Based on this formula, about $6 million dollar is invested in dam removal based on the engineers estimate on page 111 Alternatives report, then this could be $36 to 72 million in avoided in repair costs. The area of South Street and Pine Street is within the current FEMA base flood zone and is a significant transportation corridor.  The annual average daily traffic estimates for South Street and the Main Street bridge are approximately 5,000 and 10,000 cars per day, per the Maine DOT. Substantial inundation of this road could also lead to repair costs required of the Town, unless damage assistance could be secured. However, by removing these areas from flooding impacts would result in a significant long-term economic benefit to the Town. To access the research cited, you can view the papers in this folder: https://tnc.box.com/s/4zz1ipjw8rucj7l9xevqqqe6vfx3733c 

 

22. It seems that the Town is very quick to accept these kind of proposals without much thought to ensuring that all the benefits of the project are received. It would be a shame to be 'duped' again like with the hotel project, or some revitalization of the Brown's Mill Building, or the Mayo Mill Dam removal. We really don't have a good track record. The successful projects are the ones that are NOT driven by the town, Central Hall is a success story. The Center Theater is a success story. The Field House and Ice Arena, success stories. At some point, the Town needs to take a hard look at itself and figure out why it can't help drive the same kind of results. Editorial comment from me: these questions speak to the lack of trust in the Town's ability to manage these things. There is a hole that needs to be 'dug out of'. 

Actually, the Town has given a lot of thought, over many years, to the dam and powerhouse. The Committee’s Report and Recommendation outlines years of efforts in this regard. The Steering Committee has spent an entire year studying every aspect of this project, and if dam removal is approved by the Select Board, the permitting and final design phase for this project is estimated take place from 2024-2027, with construction not starting potentially until 2028, dependent on fundraising and the timing of permitting and design. Five years from start of study to start of construction is anything but hasty. It is a strength of Dover-Foxcroft that our town government does not have to be in the driver's seat for every major project, and that our community has active and engaged citizens, and prominent institutions such as Foxcroft Academy, willing to provide leadership. The Town was the driving force behind several major recent projects: creation of the Pine Crest business park, the redevelopment of the defunct Moosehead Mfg. Co. furniture factory into the multi-use Mayo Mill complex, and the brownfields cleanup at Brown's Mill, which has created the opportunity for revitalization of that privately-owned property. Although the Central Hall renovation was led by citizen volunteers, the town was a key partner in the project - playing an active role throughout and continues to fund the building's overhead costs. The Central Hall project is an excellent example of good public/private partnering. 

23. Has there been any separate meeting to talk with business owners in town, in particular the Mill Cafe? The owner of that business is pretty good at marketing and social media, it seems having her on board could be an asset. 

At this stage of the process, no separate meetings have been held to talk with downtown business owners. If the Steering Committee's recommendation is accepted by the Select Board, and the Town moves ahead with dam removal, public outreach to the community will be accelerated and input sought as we enter the permitting and design phase. The downtown business owners' thoughts on development of riverside park amenities will be especially valuable, since the park should make downtown more attractive and create additional foot traffic. Lowering the river's water level will also remove several businesses from the flood zone, avoiding future property damage. 

24. The decision has been made without enough input and lack of awareness for homeowners along the river. 

The Steering Committee intends to meet with the homeowners along the impoundment before the public forum.   There will be many future opportunities for community input once a decision is made, and the project moves into the design phase. 

25. Length of report was too long and not enough time to review. 

The Committee reviewed close to a thousand pages in well over a dozen documents and presentations.  Yes, that is a lot!  All of these materials are on our website.  The Committee's final Report and Recommendation provides a good thumbnail 20-page summary. See the ‘Recommendation’ tab of this website. 

26. How are potential changes to the Guilford and Brown's Mill Dams being considered in this project?  If the Brown's Mill Dam doesn't meet the successful fish passage requirements, does that diminish the value of modifications to the Mayo Mill Dam?  If the Guilford Dam AND the Mayo Dam are removed, how does that affect what the river looks like in downtown Dover?  If the Guilford Dam is NOT removed, does that diminish the value of the Mayo Dam modifications? 

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working closely with Duvaltex, who owns the dam and adjacent property on both sides of the river in Guilford, to support the company’s need to move operations out of a frequently flooded location. TNC has funding through NOAA for final engineering and design plans at Guilford – which currently include dam removal and demolition of buildings in the floodplain. Removal of the Guilford Dam will have no effect on the Mayo Mill Project. At Brown’s Mills, similar to Mayo Mill Dam, Atlantic salmon passage at Brown’s Mills is monitored and regulated by NOAA via the Endangered Species Act. The Piscataquis River watershed is critical for the survival of Atlantic salmon as a species and many fish passage and stream restoration investments are on-going throughout the watershed despite passage barriers on the mainstem river. When we consider conditions and possible changes at a dam site, we have to think about the long-term outlook. Any changes or improvement to infrastructure is assumed to have at least a 50-year lifespan, if not much longer. River restoration often does not happen sequentially, but rather continuous improvements made over time with benefits accumulating on parallel tracks, and often improvements made at one project can influence future improvements at others. 

27. How many fish make it over the Brown's Mill Dam? It may well be true that removal of the Mayo and Guilford Dams will create 'premier' salmon habitat, but if they can't get over Brown's Mill Dam what is the point? 

 

The Piscataquis River watershed is critical for the survival of Atlantic salmon as a species and many fish passage and stream restoration investments are on-going throughout the watershed despite passage barriers on the mainstem river.  When we consider conditions and possible changes at a dam site, we have to think about the long-term outlook. Any changes or improvement to infrastructure is assumed to have at least a 50-year lifespan, if not much longer. River restoration often does not happen sequentially, but rather continuous improvements made over time with benefits accumulating on parallel tracks, and often improvements made at one project can influence future improvements at others.   

 

28. Does the Brown's Mill Dam meet the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements? 

 

KEI (USA) Power Management Inc owns the Brown’s Mill Dam, which is a 550 KW capacity hydro-electric dam regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Similar to Mayo Mill Dam, Atlantic salmon passage at Brown’s Mills is monitored and regulated by NOAA via the Endangered Species Act. Some adult Atlantic salmon are eventually able to upstream after long delays, but most do not. Fish passage for Atlantic salmon is regulated by NOAA fisheries through the ESA. 

 

29. Are there testimonials available regarding the Farmington dam removal and the Howland fish ladder? 

Quotes from 2022 article in Sun Journal referring to the Farmington project: “This is a beautiful place,” “We have been here many times, have had picnics in the pavilion, have brought visitors. It’s a very restorative place, it’s wonderful. I love the natural plantings.” "Bunker referred to the park as a gold star for Farmington. It puts Farmington on the map, he said."  “When people stop talking, you can hear the stream,” “Isn’t this marvelous, the plantings, things for kids to climb on and this huge field,” Jespersen pointed out. “The walkways are so accessible. I am proud of everybody involved. They did an outstanding job.” Read more here:  

https://www.sunjournal.com/2023/10/05/waltons-mill-park-partnerships-create-beautiful-space-for-all-to-enjoy/  

On Howland and the Penobscot River Restoration Project:  

https://www.themainemag.com/a-river-runs-through-it/ 

30. What is the timeline for either approach? When would it begin and when would the stream restoration and park establishment be complete? 

The timing of the next steps are dependent on many factors including when a final decision is made, when a partnership agreement between the Town and ASF can be completed, final design development, community input throughout design, permitting, and fundraising.  An estimated timing of key steps is below.  Some tasks could be completed earlier, or take longer.  

Finalize partnership agreement: estimated to take 90 days to complete in 2024 
Organize Community Participation: estimated to take 90 days to complete in 2024 
Permitting and final design: estimated to take 3 years to complete between 2024-2028 
Construction: estimated to take 2 years to complete between 2028-2030 
Streambank restoration & Park Development: estimated to take 1-2 years to complete in 2030-203

31. If the town owns Mayo Mill Dam and hydro facility why are taxes assessed to Mayo Mill Holdings LLC?

MMH LLC is taxed as the lessee of the site not as the owner. The town has owned the site since 1974. After leasing the dam and hydro to Moosehead Energy for a number of years the town subsequently leased the facility to Mayo Mill Holdings LLC in 2014. The town leased the facility to MMH LLC so that it could pursue a restart of the hydro - an effort which MMH LLC abandoned in 2021.

32. Why did the town file a letter to FERC in late December/early January?

The town is required by FERC to report on the status of the hydro facility. A filing to FERC was due at the end of 2023.

33. Why did the FERC letter refer to a surrender plan?

FERC only maintains jurisdiction over energy projects. Hydro facilities either need to have a plan to be operational or they need to have a plan to surrender their power-generating licensure (or exemption from licensure). Since the Mayo Mill Dam currently has no plan for restart, the town needed to submit a plan for the surrender of power generation by the end of 2023.

34. Does a surrender plan for power generation require that the dam is removed?

Not necessarily. Surrender of power generation is separate from the question of whether the Mayo Mill Dam would be removed. The plan itself could include keeping the dam and fishway at the estimated cost of approximately $8M or it could include removal of the dam and fishway. The town’s letter to FERC was a request to extend the deadline for filing that plan for another 18 months. FERC approved this request.

35. Why did the town ask FERC for an 18-month extension to file a plan?

Since a surrender plan can take 12 months to develop, the request for an 18-month extension was made to allow sufficient time for the recommendation of the Dam Steering Committee to be taken to a town vote in June and allow for the following 12 months to be used to develop and submit the plan to FERC. Again, FERC approved this request.

36. Why didn't the FERC letter reference a town vote?

FERC only asked for a timeline to support the need for an extension of the deadline to submit a plan for surrendering power generation. The letter said "the Select Board would approve a final decision" and didn’t specify the process for reaching that decision. Since the question of a town vote was addressed on January 25, 2024, it could not be detailed in a letter submitted to FERC on January 3rd.

35. Grant funding - who will raise it, how will it be done, and is there any cost to the town? Also, will the construction work be done in phases as the money comes in?

 

When the Town makes an official decision and signs an agreement with ASF and TNC, funding will be a part of the agreement and the proposal at hand is that the responsibility of fundraising will be on ASF and TNC. This would mean that the work would be at no cost to the Town and ASF & TNC would do the work on the Town’s behalf. And to ensure it’s clear, the work completed to date has been at zero cost to the Town.

 

ASF and TNC have existing partnerships and a lot of successful experience in raising funds from federal, state, and private sources to successfully gather the necessary funds. ASF and TNC’s most demonstrated success was with the Penobscot River Restoration Project and in addition, ASF specially has implemented over 25 projects across Maine.  When an owner commits and we sign an agreement, we always follow through.

 

The Town would provide support in fundraising by providing letters of support for grants and in helping identify potential sources of government or private funding (e.g., community development grants, open space and park grants).

 

The construction will not begin until various milestones are completed, including raising the necessary funds committed to successfully complete the work, full dam and powerhouse removal and all post-removal needs, as a whole project.  We do not sign construction contracts without all the funding committed for the construction, engineering oversight, post-construction work, etc. The phasing may come with the landscape development. ASF/TNC would of course ensure riverside vegetation but we haven’t figured out the other ideas (overlooks, trails, benches, etc.) The landscape design elements completed to date are conceptual ideas and need a community process to further develop.  ASF/TNC is proposing to continue to work with the Town and landscape architects to gather public input, hold community design workshops, and complete a final preliminary design plan for the Town land adjacent to the Dam. So given that the design plan is unclear, we don’t quite have an implementation plan yet.  However, ASF/TNC has committed to seeing through the next phases and leveraging the dam removal for the opportunities the Town would like to have on the landscape.

36. Liability of the project - if any overages come across will the town be obligated to pay those or does ASF incur those costs?

The Town would not be held responsible for any increasing costs or anything, the responsibility for all liability would come to ASF/TNC.  I would think this would hold unless the Town backed out at some point along the way.  These are terms the Town and ASF/TNC would negotiate in a future agreement when there is an official decision, but you can look at the current agreement (see this link to review) where there are pretty extensive liability terms agreed upon that alleviates the Town from everything.  Below are some general terms we have used in the past with other Towns and would propose as a starting point here.

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