by Amy Calder, staff writer
WINSLOW – FPL Energy Hydro says it will move forward to remove the Fort Halifax Dam now that the Zoning Board of Appeals has unanimously denied an appeal that would have blocked the power company from removing the dam.
Allen Wiley, vice president of FPL Energy Hydro LLC, on Wednesday said he and others felt the Zoning Appeals Board made the right decision when its members voted 5-0 to affirm a Planning Board decision of March 17 that approves FPL Energy’s application to remove the dam.
Wiley is director of business and regulatory affairs for FPL Energy.
The appeals were filed by a local group called Save Our Sebasticook, founded by Rep. Kenneth C. Fletcher, R-Winslow, and local resident Jane Edwards.
SOS plans to meet this week to discuss whether to appeal Monday’s zoning-board decision, Fletcher said Wednesday.
“We’ll get together as a group, discuss the situation, get a feel for what people want to do and go from there,” he said.
Speaking from his Augusta office, Wiley said FPL Energy plans to draw down at the dam, “as outlined in the Planning Board permit, the first of July and after about a two-week draw-down we’d start breaching the dam — mid-July.”
After about another week of draw-down, removal of the dam would start, he said.
“We’re basically talking between July and probably into the latter part of September,” Wiley said.
The Zoning Board’s vote on Monday came with conditions, Town Attorney William Lee said Wednesday.
One of them is that the entire dam, not part of it, be removed. FPL had proposed removing 87 feet of the dam and leaving 220 feet on the south side and part of the north section, he said.
“The Planning Board made a requirement to remove all of it and the Zoning Board of Appeals affirmed that,” Lee said.
SOS and resident Edwards had filed separate appeals to the Planning Board decision, saying the Planning Board erred when it approved the energy company’s application. Edwards’s appeal argued that the Planning Board did not discuss an issue involving chromium in the soil potentially causing a health and safety problem if the dam is removed.
SOS argued several issues, including that dam removal could result in significant erosion and adversely impact wildlife — and residents and homes on Dallaire Street could be at risk if the riverbank slumps with dam removal.
Fletcher said he felt that the Appeals Board faced a challenging issue, part of which was understanding the Planning Board’s process in coming to its decision.
“I certainly can understand, in a way, the challenge that the appeals board had because this is a very complicated issue — there’s no question about it,” Fletcher said.
He said that this month will mark seven years of dealing with the matter. He said he worries about short and long-term implications of dam removal and, if it occurs, he hopes there will never be a problem.
“Hopefully, we’re wrong. That’s the best that I can say at this point,” Fletcher said.