SKOWHEGAN — A week after unanticipated construction at a dam resulted in the Kennebec River being drawn down 9 feet, some residents feel they were left high and dry.

The unanticipated head pond drawdown and enactment of the nonfailure Emergency Action Plan at the Weston Project dam are necessary to allow repair of concrete at a southern pier. The Weston Project, owned by Brookfield Renewable, is located on the Kennebec River in the towns of Skowhegan, Norridgewock, Starks, and Madison.

Brookfield began contacting residents just hours before the drawdown to get boats or seaplanes off the river. But some, like Norridgewock resident Liane Johnson, felt they didn’t have enough time. In an email to the Morning Sentinel, Johnson said by the time they had heard about the drawdown, her family’s boat was on its side.

“I’m sure we are not the only ones in this predicament,” Johnson said. If we had been given a few days advance notice, we certainly would not have let this happen.”

Johnson said this was a clear example of Brookfield not respecting the community.

“Obviously Brookfield just doesn’t care about us little people in the community,” Johnson said.

Samantha Edwards, community relations manager for Brookfield, said the company had heard from a few residents about stranded boats, but said that number was probably less than five. She said the company explained that they tried to reach all the residents they could in a timely manner, but they were faced with a situation that they had to act on quickly.

“It’s not something we expected,” she said.

Anyone who needs to reach the company can do so via email, Edwards said, at [email protected]

Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand said her office had not received any calls about stranded boats.

Workers doing routine maintenance on the dam discovered concrete deterioration of the downstream side of the stanchion pier on the dam spillway. The drawdown was necessary to let a team into the area and investigate the deterioration safely. The river will go from 156 feet to 147 feet, and the head pond will remain at that level until the problem is solved. A similar drawdown occurred at this time last year.

The head pond will be maintained at the lower level for about four to six weeks so the repair work can be performed. The refill will start once the repair is completed. The drawdown occurred on Oct. 4 and took about 36 hours.

Minimum flow will be maintained throughout the drawdown, as will provisions for downstream eel passage. Should repair efforts go past Nov. 1, Brookfield will coordinate with the fishery resources agencies on plans to provide continued downstream passage for salmon kelt, those that have spawned but not yet returned to the sea. The canoe portage trail will be closed for the duration of the repair work.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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