The Maine Department of Environmental Protection denied a request from a dam owner to further extend the deadline for commenting on the proposed water management plan for Clary Lake.
The manager of the company that owns Clary Lake Dam said the one-week extension granted last week by the department wasn’t long enough to respond to the plan. He also objects to the department’s handling of the two-year process of establishing a water level and plan for the 667-acre lake in Jefferson and Whitefield.
Comments are due Monday, but there isn’t a timetable for when a final order will be issued.
The DEP issued a draft lake management plan Dec. 19 for Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, the owner of the Whitefield dam, setting deadlines for making repairs to the dam and outlining how it must be operated. The department gave until Dec. 27 to respond to the plan but extended the deadline to Monday, following a request from Paul Kelley, manager of Pleasant Pond Mill LLC.
Kelley made a motion to the department to extend the deadline until Jan. 30, make departmental data pertaining to minimum flows in the order available, and provide any necessary permit or work order required to repair the dam.
The department granted the extension to Monday because of a winter storm that knocked out power to a significant portion of households in the region, but it denied the other requests. Kelley’s request Thursday to reconsider the decision was rejected five hours after he filed the four-and-a-half page motion.
Kelley said because of the storm and the holidays he didn’t get a chance to speak with his attorney until Thursday, and he won’t be able to visit the department to view the case file until Monday.
During the two-year process, the department has given more time in previous orders for the two parties to respond to documents and data. A department spokeswoman, however, said the five business days originally given are standard for license or permit proceedings, and the longer time in previous orders were given because it was new information.
“The information in the draft order is not new information, per se. It’s an analysis of what the parties have already submitted to the department,” Jessamine Logan, spokeswoman for the department said Friday.
George Fergusson, spokesman for the petitioners, said he’s fine with the shorter response period and doesn’t plan to submit objections to the draft order.
The department has received complaints dating back more than 20 years about varying water levels of the lake and the condition of the dam along Route 218, according to the draft plan.
Lakefront landowners in Whitefield and Jefferson submitted a petition more than two years ago requesting the department issue a water management plan over concerns that the lower lake level was hurtful to the surrounding wildlife and the recreational use of the lake. The dam owner has countered that because of damage the dam sustained in a storm in the fall of 2011, it’s unable to hold a higher water level without risking damage to a historic mill directly downstream.
The water level order, if issued as is by the department, would require the dam owner to make repairs to the dam by October.
The dam owner is also required to hire a professional licensed land surveyor to determine the lake’s historical normal high water line and keep the level no more than two feet below it at all times.
Kelley said the water level is something that should have been established by the department during the process.
But Logan said requiring a dam owner to hire an expert to establish the water level has been past practice for similar situations.
According to the department, the Clary Lake water level dispute is the first adjudicatory water level process it’s ever conducted. As part of the process, the department held a public hearing in August 2012 to allow both parties to present evidence and cross examine both the evidence and those testifying.
Fergusson, who has criticized the department in the past for taking so long to resolve the issue, said he expects the department to move forward with the deadline set out in the draft plan.
Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, which bought the dam in 2006 to protect a small house on the property, bought the more than 100-year-old mill on the other side of Route 218 of the dam in 2003 to renovate the property into a working hydraulic dam again and add residential and commercial units to the mill. The partnership fell apart seven years later when some members felt the development was unattainable, according to Kelley.
Then a different company, AquaFortis Associates LLC, formed to buy the mill, the one-acre strip abutting the dam property and the house, leaving Kelley managing Pleasant Pond Mill LLC and the dam.