The longstanding dispute over the water level of Clary Lake in Jefferson and Whitefield has yet to be resolved after months of mediation and the dissolution of the company that owned the dam when landowners petitioned the state to set a water level more than three years ago.

The dispute over the water level actually dates back decades before surrounding landowners filed the petition with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, but it appears the issue worsened after Tropical Storm Irene damaged the dam in 2011.

The spokesman for the petitioners and a lakefront owner in Whitefield, George Fergusson, said the lake level, about a foot higher than it was three years ago, is still an ongoing environmental disaster.

Following the department’s January 2014 order setting a water level management plan, the owner of the dam on the 667-acre lake, Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, appealed the decision to Lincoln County Superior Court and requested entering a land dispute mediation program through the court. The appeal claims the department didn’t have jurisdiction or statutory authority to order the water level or for repairs to be made to the more-than-a-century-old dam, and that the water level order would force the company to flood the property of upstream landowners.

The mediation ended after Paul Kelley, manager of Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, dissolved his company in March. The court has a status conference hearing scheduled for June 2.

The mediator, John Sheldon, wrote in his report submitted to the court May 7 that it’s unclear whether and how the water level order can be enforced now that the company has dissolved.


But the state believes it has an enforceable order, according to the assistant attorney general who is representing the department, Thomas Harnett. Harnett declined to comment on how the department would enforce it.

Mediation also included AquaFortis Associates LLC, which owns the mill on the other side of Route 218 and a 1-acre strip abutting the dam property; Arthur Enos, who sold the dam to Pleasant Pond Mill LLC in 2006 and holds the mortgage on the dam; and Frederick Duncan, a landowner on the lake.

The department recently returned a different petition Kelley’s company had filed in 2013 to release ownership of the dam. The process allows a dam owner to walk away from a dam if no parties with any interest in the dam is willing to take it over. In a letter dated May 13 to Kelley, Kathy Howatt, hydropower coordinator for the department, said the department will take no further action on the petition because Kelley had said to the mediator in an email that the company “never in fact” owned the dam.

Kelley said Thursday that if the department has rejected the company’s petition, it would appear the same criteria should apply to the water level order petition filed by surrounding landowners at the end of 2011.

The water level order, which required the dam to be repaired by last October, hasn’t yet been enforced. Mark Bergeron, director of the division of land resource regulation at the department, said the department is waiting until the resolution of the appeal process before making decisions about enforcement.

This was the first water level order process handled by the department. Previously, the state Board of Environmental Protection handled the requests, but the department took it over after the state passed a law in 2011 overhauling regulatory rules.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig

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