Recreation will be key to the Androscoggin River’s future, but advocates and officials from FPL Energy can’t agree about where to begin.
FPL Energy officials are hoping to file their Land/Trail Management Plan for the Gulf Island Dam/Deer Rips project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this summer. That study outlines recreational uses of the river and surrounding lands for the next several years.
But Jonathan LaBonte, Androscoggin Land Trust executive director, said FPL’s draft plan relies on old, outdated information – a 1991 study of recreational uses and a 1983 Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments management plan.
“This newest plan will set policy for the next 40 years, and we’d prefer that it not rely on data that is already 20 years out of date,” LaBonte said. “Lewiston/Auburn and the surrounding rural communities have changed a lot since this data was first gathered. The FPL plan should be based on today’s reality going forward, not on the past.”
Neil Ward, program director for the Androscoggin River Alliance, agreed.
“Ask yourself who actually used the river for recreation in 1983, when it was at its most polluted,” he said. “Nobody did. But they do now, and we think the study should reflect that.”
Chad Clark, FPL Energy business manager, said the existing studies are adequate. They’re only one of several other recreational studies the company must perform.
“To say that our information does not reflect the current situation is inaccurate,” he said. The new management plan will include comments from all local groups.
“And many of those are included in the final plan,” he said. “In our view, we need to finish this plan and be allowed to move on.”
Clark met with the local river groups and communities last week, and said he plans to meet them again in July. He hopes to file the finished plan with the federal agency on Aug. 10.