I am a marine biologist/botanist with an extensive background in marine, freshwater aquatic and terrestrial ecology. I spent a considerable amount of time in my professional career designing, implementing and managing comprehensive multi-discipline environmental assessment programs, analyzing all the data and writing environmental impact reports.
The studies included freshwater aquatic, marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Socio economic studies were also included. Projects ranged from small local projects, including dam removal similar to the Mousam dams, at the few million-dollar level to large multi-billion dollar projects.
No two projects are exactly alike. The same type of project in the same type of ecosystem, but in different locations will not necessarily produce the same expected results.
It is astounding to me to hear endless promises and absolutes that the removal of the Mousam dams will result in a beautiful river loaded with endless species of fish rushing well inland to find spawning areas, the bankings will almost instantly be overgrown with beautiful plants and the number of species of wildlife will thrive and live happily ever after. Someone isn’t being completely honest and realistic with the public or ignorance is in control. No professional, well-educated, honest and experienced biologist or ecologist will make such promises.
I don’t hear much or any talk at all by river alliance and/or fish groups (local, state or national) recognizing the significance of the current ecosystems in and along the Mousam River in Kennebunk. There seems to be nothing but tunnel vision with no understanding, or caring, that removing the dams will result in the destruction of or major damage to those ecosystems.
The further tragedy is that many residents are seeing only one side of the coin. The fact that we have a very strong, beautiful, thriving, productive and rich ecosystem (aquatic and terrestrial) in and along the Mousam River that flows through the dams and impoundments is being minimized or hidden from our community, deliberately, is disgusting and a travesty. Kennebunk doesn’t need that type of irresponsibility and reckless approach to solving issues. There are two sides of every coin and there are always options and alternatives for achieving mutually acceptable goals. However, that does require a high level of integrity and responsibility.
The recent cost analysis by Albert Kolff and his suggestion of real cost-savings to KLPD rate payers by bringing the dams up to proper operating condition, and refuted by Alex Mendelsohn last week, represents a window of real opportunity.
It is but one approach that shows there are options here whether Mendelsohn and his supporters are willing to acknowledge it or not. So far, I see no evidence of that. I know of hundreds of Kennebunk residents who are looking for a way to make the dam issue a win-win for both sides. It doesn’t appear that win-win is part of his vocabulary. To start, we absolutely need a detailed analysis of all areas of the river system that will be impacted by removing the dams.
Furthermore, there has to be an unbiased description of what the impacts of removing any one or all the dams will have on the ecosystems in the area. To move ahead with removing anything without this information is incomprehensible and completely irresponsible to put it mildly.
Finally, the natural ecosystems in and around the river mostly likely to be negatively impacted by dam removal are well established and expanding by the year. The river is being used by many individuals and groups, including middle and high school classes. The river in its existing state is an important, intricate part of our history and our community. It is a significant attraction as proven by endless visitors to Kennebunk who stand on the bridge at Kesslen and take in its beauty. It is a statement of where we came from and who we are now.
Free the Mousam, Mr. Mendelsohn? Not so fast. May I invite you and your cohorts to recognize this one fact: if both sides of a proposed multi-billion dollar project can take a deep breath and open otherwise blocked minds to find ways to meet in the middle, then we can do the same and there is hope in Kennebunk. If not, a true gem in our community will be lost forever.