Dexter seeks compromise on boat launch

Posted Nov. 30, 2008, at 8:56 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:10 a.m.

DEXTER, Maine — The Town Council and the Dexter Utilities District will meet this week in an attempt to reach a compromise regarding the primitive boat launch on Lake Wassookeag.

The issue came to a head in 2005 when the Dexter planning board first granted a permit to the state to make the primitive launch into a permanent boat launch.

The primitive launch site has been used over the years by owners of larger boats who can’t access the big lake from the state’s boat launch on the smaller part of the lake. The two portions of the lake are connected by an overpass on Route 23.

The district is opposed to the move and wants the facility closed because the public drinking water supply’s intake system is located just 681 feet away. Worried about future contamination, the trustees filed a complaint last fall in Superior Court to stop the process.

A stay of proceedings until Jan. 2 was granted by the court at the request of the district to allow the boards to work on a compromise. If a compromise is not reached by that date, the matter will be handled by the court.

“Can we make a compromise that’s going to satisfy everybody?” acting Town Manager David Pearson asked. “The answer is no, but at some point we have to say OK, we can benefit most of the people, if not all of the people.”

Although a meeting last month was aided by a jointly hired mediator, the 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, meeting will be between the Town Council and the utilities district. While the meeting is public, no public comment will be taken, according to Pearson.

“The one thing we have in common — the water district and the town — is that we really don’t want to spend a lot more money on attorneys,” Pearson said.

From the earlier meeting of the two boards, the district was to seek an objective technical analysis to assess the risk of the boat launch to the public drinking water, and the town was asked to search the lake’s shorefront for an alternative boat launch site.

Pearson said the town identified one lot on the southern shore, which was for sale, but the owner has since sold the property to the abutting landowners, who did not want a public boat launch near them.

While the loss of that property has put the town back at square one, there are other possible solutions, according to Pearson. He said three suggestions will be discussed during the meeting.

One proposal involves the water district moving the intake pipe farther up the lake or putting an extension on the intake pipe, Pearson said. “I think we’ll find that’s a very expensive thing to do,” he said.

A second proposal involves the state raising the bridge that connects the two bodies of water, and the last proposal would be to lower the lake level 6 inches or so in the spring, which would allow larger boats to launch on the little lake and access the larger lake. In the summer, the water level is naturally lower and most boats can pass underneath, he said.

The latter suggestion could be made on an experimental basis provided it did not interfere with smelt runs or the spawning of lake trout, Pearson said.

“That might be workable as an experiment,” he said.

If that suggestion is adopted, there will be no public boat launch on the big lake and the state would hold off on building a permanent facility pending the experiment, according to Pearson.

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