May 24, 2020

Piscataquis flood-warning system proposed

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Rather than be caught off guard during the next flood, an flood warning system for the upper Piscataquis River watershed has been proposed.

The Piscataquis County Commissioners were asked Tuesday to be the catalyst to move the project forward, and to be the project sponsor.

Albert Dow, Bruce Champeon and Don Haley of the USDA Soil Conservation Service, Maurice Yonkin of Guilford Industries and Bob Pride of Pride Manufacturing Co. met with the commissioners to discuss the project.

An early flood warning system for the Piscataquis River would cost about $100,500, 75 percent of which would be funded by the federal government, Haley said. Because of the federal funds involved, Haley said, another flood-control measure would be needed such as the construction of dikes around the three industries that were affected by the 1987 flood.

A dike to protect the Moosehead Manufacturing Co. plant in Dover-Foxcroft is estimated to cost $500,000, and dikes for Pride Manufacturing Co. and Guilford Industries are estimated to cost $550,000 and $1.2 million, respectively. The federal government would pay 75 percent of these costs, Haley said. The county, he said, could investigate to see if the Maine Emergency Management Agency would participate in the local share of the costs. In addition, businesses and industries which would benefit from the system could help in the local costs.

Because of the devastation from the 1987 flood, the Soil Conservation Service was asked to help design a plan to protect the area along the Piscataquis River. The public, representatives of the industries, and town and county officials attended several meetings held by the SCS to discuss a warning device. The recommendation for an early warning device and the dikes were a result of the meetings.

According to Haley, the warning system would have six automatic precipitation gauges in the watershed area, each covering about 40 miles of terrain. Two river gauges would be encased about three feet into the ground, possibly in Kingsbury and Blanchard, he said. The gauges, fitted with transmitters, would forward information about rainfall and the rise of the river by radio frequency to a central computer, probably located at the sheriff’s department. Haley said the system would allow immediate evaluation of the situation.

Haley said an identical base station would be installed at the National Weather Service Bureau in Portland. Using three repeater stations, the weather bureau would get the information and review the severity of the storm, he said.

A local organization such as the county or a combination of the county and towns is needed to sponsor the flood warning system, according to Champeon. Many who have worked on the project believe the county should become the sponsor, he said. The sponsor must have the power of eminent domain to enable installment of gauges, and must be responsible for 25 percent of the installation costs and operation and maintenance of the system, estimated to cost about $10,000 a year.

Pride said his company was very interested in an early warning system. He said the company was interested in building a dike around some of the buildings, even to the tune of 25 percent of $550,000. Yonkin said GI also was interested in a warning system.

The SCS will schedule some public meetings, which the commissioners agreed to attend, to determine if the public supports county sponsorship of the project.

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