In last week’s Post, Mr. Cook expressed dismay over how the Town has changed during his lifetime, and that not all the changes are positive. He implies that the tax rate might become so high that he, along with others, might have to decide if they can still afford to live here. Except for his reference to the Waterhouse Center which I feel was a very creative solution to a vacant parcel of land, I couldn’t agree more. The dubious decision to proceed with a $58 million expansion to the high school for what I understand is a declining student population and now a proposed $2.7 million for a state-of-the-art dump are the most recent examples of questionable priorities that will increase taxes. But his concern that higher taxes will result if we choose to keep our dams is not entirely accurate. To begin with, our hydro facilities have been paid for by the residents since the Town first decided to create hydroelectric generation for street lighting and to power the mills over a century and a half ago. In 1951 KLPD was established to operate and maintain these facilities on our behalf under the custodianship of the Board of Trustees. When properly managed and competently maintained, the three dams averaged nearly 2 million kilowatts/year and ran at approximately 70% efficiency—significantly offsetting our energy costs and dependence on power off the grid. Compare that to the 16% efficiency of solar installations like the one KLPD just contracted to purchase our power from in order to dispense with our hydropower generation.
In forfeiting its birthright, KLPD is throwing away the hydro facilities that residents have paid for, the savings that residents have benefited from, and that we as residents voted overwhelmingly last November to retain. In defiance of the wishes of their ratepayers to whom they claim to be accountable, KLPD voted last year to surrender their license in June 2016 and filed that intent with FERC in March 2017. Those of us who adamantly oppose this decision do so out of the conviction that in the long run, it will cost the Town considerably more money to remove the dams, forfeiting the savings they provide us, the possibility of millions being needed for bank remediation and rectification to drainage infrastructure after the river has been eradicated, the senseless destruction of a well established ecosystem (by environmentalists no less!), and the very negative impact on property values, recreation, and tourist dollars. Higher taxes may well be required to make up for all these losses—and all for a very foolish, ideological, and romantic fantasy of returning the Mousam to the conditions we think it was in before anyone settled here.
Now that KLPD has surrendered its license, the long local tradition of independent hydroelectric generation will come to an end unless another power company qualified to obtain the license makes an offer to take over and operate the dams. No LLC can simply buy the dams and run them as if they were private property. Absent such an offer, FERC will invariably order the dams out—which is exactly what the array of special interest groups influencing KLPD have been working for and counting on for 8 years.
Yes, Mr. Cook, I too am afraid of a spike in taxes and in our electric bills, but it will not be the result of preserving of our dams, our river, and the hydrogeneration it has provided. It will be in my opinion the reprehensible consequences of a manipulative and politically motivated Board of Trustees who voted to throw away our historic yet still serviceable hydro facilities and our independent, renewable energy production in order to meet the demands of myopic environmentalists. An election is coming up soon. A seat on the KLPD Board of Trustees is being challenged. It is time for a change. Vote accordingly."