AUGUSTA — City officials are considering a request to help bring runs of alewives back to Togus Pond by providing up to a couple hundred yards of gravel to improve access to what they hope will become the site of a new fishway around the dam that controls water levels in the lake.

Togus Dam is in Chelsea, not Augusta, but most of the water it impounds makes up the waterfront for about 400 Augusta homes, camps and other properties that circle Togus Pond, thus generating a substantial amount of property taxes in Augusta.

City councilors are scheduled Thursday to decide whether the city should donate up to 200 cubic yards of gravel to the Worromontogus Lake Association, the nonprofit association of property owners on the lake, to help with efforts of the association, state officials and others to restore alewives to Togus Pond.

The small fish that spend part of their lives in freshwater lakes and streams and part in the ocean are currently blocked from getting into Togus Pond by the dam. Lake association members and state fisheries officials hope to build a fishway to provide passage to alewives around the dam, though the fishway project still lacks the approximately $350,000 it is projected to cost.

In the meantime, lake association leaders have secured grant funding they plan to use to build a better driveway into the site, and put in a shed there to store equipment needed to maintain the dam now and the proposed fishway in the future. And last week they asked the city to participate in the project by contributing gravel needed for the driveway and for a pad to be built to support the shed and other planned improvements.

Greg Jolda, president of the lake association, anticipates they’ll need about 130 cubic yards of gravel for the project. The proposal going to city councilors for consideration would provide up to 200 cubic yards. Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said 200 yards was proposed to make sure there would be enough aggregate to complete the work.

He said 130 yards of gravel, the amount expected to be needed, would cost the city about $1,100, while the maximum of 200 yards, if needed, would cost about $1,500. St. Pierre said the city would purchase the gravel from one of its suppliers and have it delivered to the site.

The city has made no other direct financial contributions to the project, other than some city staff time spent working on the project, according to St. Pierre. Jolda estimated that property owners who live at the pond pay about $1 million in property taxes a year to Augusta.

Gary Schaumburg, a member of the lake association, said reintroducing alewives into the pond could improve the environment, provide a food source for numerous other animals, and help improve water quality because the fish consume phosphate materials.

“It’s part of a statewide program to reintroduce alewives to their ancestral spawning grounds, so it’s got enormous benefit to the entire state,” Schaumburg said, noting state Department of Marine Resources officials approached the association about the idea in 2009. The association “decided it would be worth it, both for the lake itself and the stream and for the environment around it to have alewives reintroduced to the area.”

The association has secured grants from the Davis Conservation Fund for $10,000; the Viles Foundation for $7,500; and raised $4,500 through association fundraising, for a total of $22,000. Jolda said they anticipate that will be enough to put the driveway and shed in.

Association members and state officials are still seeking grant funding or any other sources for the estimated $350,000 cost of building the new fishway at the 1804 dam.

Schaumburg said they hope getting a contractor into the site to do the driveway and shed work could potentially result in a lower price for the dam, because the dam site could be much easier to access. He said the state hasn’t been able to get funding for the project at the $350,000 estimated cost.

“If we can get a more reasonable price, maybe we can finally get the fish ladder itself constructed,” he said.

Association members, who currently own and operate the dam, also approached city councilors in April to say the association wants to give up its sole ownership of the dam and instead share responsibility for it with Augusta and, potentially, Chelsea. Augusta councilors expressed interest in studying the idea but did not commit the city to taking ownership of the dam. Mayor David Rollins said the city would look further into such agreements where a municipality shares ownership and responsibility for a dam with other entities before deciding how to proceed on that request.

Councilors meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Augusta City Center to consider the proposal to provide gravel for the project. Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Consider authorizing the transfer of two guns seized by police in criminal investigations to the Augusta Police Department. The guns would be held by the police department until councilors determine what should be done with them. Councilors have previously discussed, but didn’t vote upon, the question of whether the city should sell the guns or destroy them.

• Present the Mayor’s Recognition of Excellence Committee Award to Marilyn Noyes Mollicone, longtime Augusta botanist, for her many years of volunteering for Augusta Nature Camp and;

• Consider authorizing City Manager William Bridgeo to have a tax-acquired property at 14 South Grove St. listed for sale.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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