The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a final water level plan Monday afternoon for Clary Lake, more than two years after property owners in Jefferson and Whitefield filed a petition with the department over a low lake level.
The water level management plan is similar to the draft plan the department released Dec. 19 that outlines how Clary Lake Dam must be operated and sets a deadline of October for making repairs to the 110-year-old Whitefield dam.
The spokesman for the landowner petitioners, George Fergusson, of Whitefield, said he’s happy with the plan, although he expects the dam owner to fight decision.
The manager of the company that owns the dam, Paul Kelley, has previously criticized the department for what he said were errors during the process. He said his company, Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, may appeal the decision to the Board of Environmental Protection or to superior court.
“Pleasant Pond is going to seriously consider its options because it feels there are still substantial errors in the body of the final order,” Kelley said.
An appeal to the department board or court, however, won’t delay implementation of the order. Department spokeswoman Jessamine Logan said the department expects the owner to comply with the order and meet all deadlines.
“Given the past concerns from the dam owner, we do expect that they will file an appeal,” Logan said in an email Monday.
The first deadline is May 1 for the submission of a water level management plan that includes a maintenance and repair plan and procedures for operating the dam.
The dam owner is also required to keep the water level no more than two feet below the lake’s historical normal high water line, determined by a professional licensed land surveyor contracted by the dam owner.
Kelley thinks the department should have determined the water level 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, although the department has never undertaken this process in the past.
Pleasant Pond Mill LLC has only owned the dam located along Route 218 since 2006, but disputes over the water level of the lake and the condition of the dam have dated back to more than two decades ago, according to the department.
Surrounding landowners initiated the process by filing a petition at the end of 2011 asking the department to intervene over concerns that the lower lake level was hurtful to the wildlife and the recreational use of the 667-acre lake. Kelley has countered that because of damage the dam sustained by 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.
Parties originally had until Dec. 27 to respond to the draft plan, but the DEP extended the deadline to Monday, following a request from Kelley to extend the deadline a month because of inclement weather and two holidays.
Kelley pointed out that although the department originally requested parties respond to the draft order in less than five full business days, the DEP took three weeks to review comments before issuing essentially the same order.