Officials in Somerset County have estimated washouts to private roads in the northwestern part of the county will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix, but the Maine Emergency Management Agency said Friday it is unable to help pay for repairs because the damage happened on private land.

Work on fixing the network of private roads in unorganized territory west of U.S. Route 201 between Jackman and The Forks probably will take weeks, according to state and local officials, many of whom expressed doubt that any outside funding will be available to help private landowners who are wondering how they will pay for repairs to make the roads passable.

On Friday, several residents and camp owners remained trapped by the damage, which washed out large sections of road, deposited rocks and created craters several feet deep in areas after more than 7 inches of rain fell Tuesday night.

The lack of access also concerned local and state emergency officials, who are doing what they can to make sure they can respond in case of an emergency.

Somerset County Commissioner Bobby Dunphy estimated Friday that the amount of damage in the area would cost $900,000 to $1 million to fix, though other officials said the damage is so extensive it has been hard to get a comprehensive picture of what the cost will be.

“I don’t think there’s really a lot (the county) can do unless the governor declares it an emergency,” Dunphy said. “We can’t allocate any money because it’s private roads, and you cannot spend any public money on a private road unless it’s declared an emergency by the governor.”

The Maine Emergency Management Association, which handles natural disasters in the state, can’t secure federal emergency funding because the damage occurred on private land, said Bruce Fitzgerald, director of the Maine Emergency Management Association. There is also a required threshold of $1.9 million in damage that the state must prove in order to get funding.

“We certainly sympathize with the situation,” Fitzgerald said. “We wish we could help, but because of the way the disaster programs work and it’s private property, there really isn’t anything we can offer.”

The affected roads include Spencer Road, which begins at U.S. 201 just south of the Parlin Pond Bridge between The Forks and Jackman; and several roads that branch off from it. Spencer Road is owned by forest management company Weyerhaeuser Co. before it becomes Old Spencer Road several miles in.

Kate Tate, external communications and public affairs director for Weyerhaeuser Co., said Friday in an email that the company still is evaluating the situation, including needed repairs and the location of residents and visitors near and around their property.

“We’re working now to better understand the situation so we can address all these matters,” she said.


Meanwhile, law enforcement and emergency service personnel said Friday they’re concerned about lack of access to an area that has several camps and residences.

“If there were a fire, everything would be gone before we could get in there,” said Jackman-Moose River Fire Chief Bill Jarvis, whose department serves the affected area. Jarvis estimated that there are about 100 residences, mostly seasonal camps in Upper Enchanted Township.

“There are people who are stuck in there. They can’t even get their vehicles out,” he said. “To get to a lot of areas right now, it would take walking time. A lot of the roads are washed out so bad you can’t even use an ATV.”

“Unfortunately, if somebody’s camp catches on fire right now without any access, there isn’t any hope.”

No injuries or emergencies have been reported in the area since Tuesday, according to Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster, who said situations in which access in a populated area is cut off are rare.

“It’s my understanding that the craters caused by the rainstorm are quite deep,” Lancaster said. “There would only be two ways to get there right now — to walk in or coordinating efforts for a helicopter” if there was an emergency.

The roads also are used by the Maine Forest Service for wildfire control and law enforcement, said Regional Forest Ranger Jeffrey Currier, of the forest service. “Anytime a situation like this arises, it does cause us some concern,” Currier said. “In this case, with all of the trouble up near Jackman and the Route 201 corridor, we have had our rangers out surveying the area so they have full situational awareness so that if we do have a fire reported, we’ll know the best route to get there.”

While forest service uses the roads regularly, Currier said he was unsure whether that would make a difference in qualifying the area for outside funding for repairs.


Sen. Rod Whittemore, R-Skowhegan, who toured a section of the damaged area Wednesday evening, said he was concerned about the lack of access and had talked with Gov. Paul LePage about securing additional state funding to assist, and LePage is concerned. On Friday, Whittemore said he had no update on the likelihood of additional funding. Whittemore’s District 3 includes all of Somerset County.

Rep. Larry Dunphy, of Embden, also said Friday that it is “critical” that the roads get restored, and he is continuing to look for sources of funding that could be applied to private land. Dunphy represents District 118, which includes the area.

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, said in an email Friday that officials from various state departments and agencies are looking into whether there are ways for the state to help.

“While some of this damage is extensive for private citizens, the state is limited in its options because these are private roads,” she said.

Lloyd Trafton, the Somerset County commissioner who represents the unorganized territory, said the county has no money in its unorganized territories account to assist; and even if it did, it could not be used on private land.

“I’ve tried to find ways to help them,” he said. “I contacted MEMA, but so far everything has turned up dead ends.”

Meanwhile Friday morning, two excavators worked in the area. Joe Gagnon, president of the Mile Ten Owners Road Association, one of three road associations in the affected area, said seven people remained trapped in his organization’s area. More than 100 people own property or have homes in the affected area.

“We’ve been working to try and make the road somewhat passable, but it’s going to be a long time, I think,” said Gagnon, who estimated that the damage to roads in his association is about $250,000. “The people that need to leave may need to walk out and have somebody bring them another vehicle. I’m not sure what they can do.”

Gagnon, who lives in Wiscasset and owns a camp on Slimhaggle Road in Upper Enchanted Township, has not seen the damage in person yet but said he plans to try to get to his camp this weekend.

“I don’t even know if it’s still standing or not,” Gagnon said. “The last report I got was that Slimhaggle Road was under 3 feet of water. I haven’t heard anything since then.”

The three road associations are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of private roads, including Spencer Road and several other roads leading from it. Spencer Road, a gravel road, is the main thoroughfare leading west from U.S. Route 201 into the townships between the highway and Franklin County, and access is important for the area, Whittemore and residents have said.

More than 7 inches of rain fell in a five-hour period in the area Tuesday night — more than doubling the National Weather Service’s standards for flash flooding for the day.

Fitzgerald, the director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said he recommends that all members of road or camp owners associations consider homeowner’s insurance in the event of flash flooding or other natural disasters.

“We seem to get multiple events now in the summertime where we get a very strong thunderstorm, it drops a lot of rain rather quickly, and we see these significant washouts,” he said. “People need to be aware that’s an increasing trend and be prepared for that.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.