WATERVILLE — Owners of a local dam have significantly lowered the depth of the Kennebec River behind the dam for maintenance, posing a potential low-water hazard to boaters upriver.

The area around the Hydro Kennebec Dam was searched a few weeks ago as part of the effort to find missing toddler Ayla Reynolds, but this week’s low water is so maintenance can be performed below the water line and has nothing to do with the search, said Joanne Walsh, spokeswoman for owner Brookfield Power.

The water level upstream from the dam, in northern Waterville and Winslow, is 15 feet below capacity and boaters should avoid it because it “will expose many new navigational hazards on the water,” according to a news release from Brookfield Power.

Walsh said it will remain that way until Thursday.

Several miles upstream from the dam — between Fairfield and Benton –the river was noticeably low, exposing rock formations and creating new rapids and falls. Many of the columns that support a railroad trestle north of Bridge Street are on dry land.

Ayla was reported missing from her Violette Avenue home on Dec. 17. Several area dams, including the Hydro Kennebec Dam, have lowered their stored water levels to help the search by Maine State Police and other agencies.

On July 17, divers from Maine State Police and the Maine Warden Service found “nothing substantial” during a day of searching near the dam, as well as the Lockwood Dam downstream, Department of Public Safety Spokesman Steve McCausland said at the time.

That same day, searchers with cadaver dogs scoured the riverbanks and a boat from Maine Search and Rescue Dogs motored between the two dams with a water-certified cadaver dog standing on the bow.

Searches of local waterways began on Dec. 20 and continued periodically throughout the winter and spring. Wardens have eliminated between two and three miles of the Kennebec River and Messalonskee Stream, McCausland said last month.

On April 21, investigators found items in the Lockwood Dam diversion channel, but McCausland won’t say what the items were or whether they were related to Ayla’s disappearance. Three weeks later, divers returned to the location and dam operators drained the diversion channel for a detailed search. McCausland said some items were recovered, but won’t specify what they were.

McCausland said searches for Ayla will continue, but police will no longer announce the times and locations in advance, as they had done during the winter and spring.

Ayla’s father, Justin DiPietro contends that Ayla was abducted. Investigators, however, say a kidnapping did not happen. In January, McCausland announced that investigators had found Ayla’s blood in the basement of her Violette Avenue home, but wouldn’t specify how much. No suspects have been named and no one has been charged.

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