May 30, 2020

Water company eyes new dam> Rockport firm aims to replace structure

ROCKPORT — The water company that supplies six area towns wants to expand the storage capacity of one of its reservoirs.

Consumers Maine Water Co. is seeking U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval to build a new dam at the outlet of Grassy Pond in Rockport. The company serves Rockland, Rockport, Camden, Thomaston and parts of Owl’s Head and Warren.

The poured-in-place cement dam would replace a wood structure built in 1963 that is now in disrepair. The new dam, planned for a site about 300 feet downstream from the existing one, would increase the size of the pond from 210 acres to 221 acres, according to information filed with the Army Corps.

For each of the last two years, Consumers has drawn just under 300 million gallons of water from Grassy Pond and transferred it to Mirror Lake, the primary reservoir. Mirror Lake is also the site of the water treatment and delivery system.

Rick Knowlton, vice president of operations for Consumers, said by raising the level of water in Grassy Pond, the company could increase its capacity to nearly 400 million gallons annually from the secondary reservoir. Chickawaukie Lake in Rockland is Consumer’s third reservoir.

“We get a considerable amount of water from Grassy Pond,” Knowlton said. While searching for additional water supplies, the investor owned utility company was urged by a regional advisory committee to maximize existing resources first.

The pond is fed by a watershed that surrounds it, with the inlet at Thorndike Brook. Downstream of the dam, the lake’s outlet is Quiggle Brook.

If the new dam is approved, the maximum water level will be about 18 inches higher than at present.

“We own the entire shoreline,” Knowlton said, “and roughly 700 acres of the watershed.” There is no vehicle access to the pond, thereby limiting the kinds of watercraft that can be used on it.

In addition to building the new dam, Consumers will remove some beaver dams downstream and make improvements to the pumping station. The budget for the project is just over $400,000.

Knowlton said the environmental impacts on the area will be slight, if not actually improving the area by adding wetlands and fish habitat. “A small pond is good, a big pond is better,” he said.

Jay Clement of the Army Corps agreed.

“The net effect is expected to be fairly minimal,” he said Tuesday. There are no known fish that spawn in the stream, and by flooding uplands, the project will create a like amount of wetlands.

The state Department of Transportation is examining the possibility of the raised water levels impacting the base of Route 17, both Clement and Knowlton said.

Once permitting is secured, construction is planned for late summer or early fall, Knowlton said, when the stream’s flow disappears.

The project needs to get state Department of Environmental Protection approval before the Army Corps permit is issued, Clement said. Consumers will then seek building permits from the town.

The Army Corps comment period ends Jan. 15. Written statements should be forwarded to Clement at the New England District, Corps of Engineers, RR 2, Box 1855, Manchester, ME 04351.

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