DEXTER, Maine — Because the Maine Department of Transportation no longer plans to convert a primitive boat launch into a public boat launch on big Lake Wassookeag, the Dexter Utilities District has dropped its lawsuit against the town and the DOT, with prejudice and without cost.
The district filed suit last year to prevent the DOT and town from creating the permanent boat launch because the public drinking water supply’s intake system is located just 681 feet away. Trustees worried that the added stress on the site and erosion could pose quality problems for the water supply.
Dexter Town Manager David Pearson said the DOT had withdrawn its permit to do the work because of the litigation. He said the DOT has offered to deed the lot, which includes a picnic area, to the town. The Town Council plans to accept the lot, provided the state installs riprap to prevent further erosion at the site, he noted.
“We won’t take title to it until they’ve done the erosion control piece,” Pearson said. To do that, the DOT must file a permit with the planning board. How the riprap is installed will determine whether boats will be allowed to continue using the site, he said.
“People might still be able to put boats in there at their own risk,” although there will not be any concrete ramps installed, Pearson said. He said he believed the riprap would end the erosion problem.
Greg Brawn of the utilities district said he was pleased the lawsuit was dropped but he still has concerns about the continued use of the site by owners of large boats. “I’m glad the lawsuit is over and I hope something can be done to remedy the issue,” he said.
The district has asked the DOT to consider deeding the property to the district instead of the town, Brawn said Monday. He said the district would maintain it as a safety rest area, which is what it is, and not as a boat launch, Brawn said. If the district owned the property, an area would be left open for canoes and kayaks and for winter recreation, he stated.
“We’re just trying to reach some sort of a compromise here,” Brawn said.
The issue first arose in 2005 when the Dexter Planning Board granted a permit to the state to make the primitive launch into a permanent boat launch. The primitive launch site had been used over the years by owners of larger boats who couldn’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.
Both sides tried to find a solution but were unsuccessful.
“It was our hope that maybe another location could be found on the lake somewhere that could be further away,” Brawn said.