A controversial proposal to remove the Masse Dam in Vassalboro has been delayed after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection rejected an initial application for the dam removal and has asked that more information, specifically more public input, be included in the application from the alewife restoration group behind the project.

Members of the Alewife Restoration Initiative, which is leading the effort to get the dam removed, said they’re still moving ahead with the project with no clear timeline in place, while neighbors opposed to the project say the delay is a good sign their concerns are being taken seriously.

“We’re celebrating a small battle being won in the DEP pausing to say they need to take a closer look before a permit is approved,” said Larisa Batchelder, a property owner along Outlet Stream who has voiced concerns about the dam’s removal. “We still believe that there are other issues that need to be looked at besides getting alewives to China Lake.”

Masse Dam is one of three dams along the stream that has been targeted for removal as the Alewife Restoration Initiative plans a re-introduction of the small migratory fish to China Lake. Proponents of the project say that removing the three dams and adding a fish ladder at a fourth will help restore the stream to its natural state, re-establish fish passage and improve the overall health of the watershed for other fish and wildlife populations.

Opponents, largely made up of property owners along the stream, say they are concerned about the effects on existing wildlife populations and their property values, since a component of the project also includes lowering water levels that the dams have held stable for years.

Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers, one of seven groups that make up ARI, said the partnership is prepared to submit more information to the DEP and has no hard timeline for when dam removals will take place.

David Madore, director of communications, education and outreach for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said he did not have information on whether the DEP has a specific reason for seeking inclusion of more public input in the application.

“I think just looking at the initial one, the department wasn’t comfortable going in that direction,” Madore said. “I think looking at the project and the direction they’re trying to go, everyone just felt like this would be a better direction for everyone.”

There is motivation to remove the Masse Dam before other dams because of an aging sawmill at that site that is in danger of falling into the stream and collapsing onto water lines in the stream, according to Hudson.

“Gathering more information together ultimately is not going to be a bad thing,” Hudson said. “The work is still going to happen.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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