Heavy rain causes mill ponds to flood

Posted June 23, 2009, at 9:25 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:05 p.m.

ORLAND, Maine — Heavy rainfall over the past several days has driven the water levels on Toddy Pond, Alamoosook Lake and Silver Lake to higher than normal levels.

Although the water has begun to recede after officials at the Verso Mill opened the gates on dams at the outlets of those bodies of water, the levels remained high Tuesday, according to mill spokesman Bill Cohen.

“There’s no question that it’s at a high level,” Cohen said Tuesday. “But since Sunday, everything is wide open and it’s going to stay that way until it gets back down.”

The mill manages the water levels on Toddy Pond, Alamoosook Lake and Silver Lake, which provide water for the papermaking process. Silver Lake also is the source for the town of Bucksport’s water supply.

Cohen said the heavy rains over the weekend caused water levels to rise faster than they had anticipated. Millworkers began opening the gates on the dams at the outlets of Toddy Pond and Alamoosook Lake. By Sunday afternoon, he said, all of the gates were wide open. The mill also uses the Naramissic River in Orland as an overflow area and the dam on that river also is wide open, he said.

“The water levels in the village [along the river] are higher than normal,” said Orland Selectman Wayne Ames.

Although there were reports that the water levels on Alamoosook Lake had risen to where the shoreline was up to the picnic tables at the beach area near the Craig Brook fish hatchery, there had been no reports of damage as of Tuesday.

Water levels Tuesday remained higher than the maximum levels in the mill’s management plan, Cohen said.

At Toddy Pond, the plan calls for the water level at the gates to be between 98.5 and 100 inches. On Tuesday, the water was at 100.2 inches.

The plan calls for the level at the Alamoosook gate to be between 120 and 121.5 inches. The level there Tuesday was just above 122, he said.

At Silver Lake, the level called for in the plan is between 124 and 128 inches, but Cohen said he had no current readings for Silver Lake.

“There’s no question that with the amount of water flowing in, everything is high,” he said.

According to the National Weather Service in Caribou, the Bangor area has received just more than 7 inches of rain this month. An NWS spokesperson noted that stronger bands of rain in the recent spate of rainstorms have resulted in higher rainfall amounts in some areas than in others.

The heaviest rains in northern and eastern Maine recently have been in the Down East area, according to the NWS.

“If the rain stops by Thursday,” Cohen predicted, “it will still be about three days or more before we get back to normal levels.”

The NWS Web site forecast calls for possible showers and thunderstorms until Saturday.

The NWS had a coastal flood advisory in effect Tuesday evening for Cumberland County from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 1 a.m. Wednesday.

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