Boat launch issue headed back to court

Posted Jan. 02, 2009, at 10:33 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:09 a.m.

DEXTER, Maine — A dispute over the location of a primitive boat launch on Lake Wassookeag that is near the public water intake system is headed back to court.

The boat launch has been used over the years by owners of larger boats who can’t gain access to the big lake from the state’s boat launch on the smaller part of the lake because it is restricted by limited clearance under the bridge that connects the two.

When the Department of Transportation moved in 2005 to convert the primitive boat launch to a permanent boat launch, the Dexter Utilities District filed suit to stop the process. The district is opposed to the move and wants the facility closed because the public water supply’s intake system is 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.

Both the Dexter Town Council and the Dexter Utilities District had worked to find a solution and last month, it appeared they had. At a joint meeting, the two boards verbally agreed to lower the water level six inches to a foot in the spring to allow larger boats clearance under the bridge as a temporary measure, according to Town Manager David Pearson.

Before that measure was adopted by the Town Council last month, a Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist weighed in.

In a letter to concerned residents, William Woodward wrote that lowering the water level would result in “consequences” to the lake trout, smelt and bass. He noted if action were taken by the town and district that was deemed detrimental to the fish populations, it would be necessary to petition the Department of Environmental Protection, which has some water level regulations, to determine property water level management.

Based on the concerns outlined in Woodward’s letter, the Town Council last month voted 6-1 not to lower the water level.

By taking the action, Pearson said the issue would revert back to court for litigation. The utilities district will then file a brief in support of its claim. The town will have 30 days to respond to the brief. Pearson said the town could either mount a legal defense in support of the DOT’s move or let the judge rule on the record.

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