Newport dam plan revived

Posted Sept. 26, 2009, at 1:47 a.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — After being uncertain about a path forward for improving the operation of a dam on lower Sebasticook Lake, Town Manager James Ricker on Thursday found new hope for an old plan.

Ricker said a design hatched by a local contractor last year to install adjustable flashboards at the top of the dam will be carried out after the contractor agreed to work with others to institute his idea. Ricker told the Bangor Daily News earlier this week that the contractor was too ill to be bothered, but subsequently learned otherwise.

“Thankfully, he’s able to help us with technical assistance,” said Ricker of the contractor, whom he didn’t identify out of respect for the man’s privacy. “Between volunteer labor and his good advice, I think there’s enough ingenuity to make this operational.”

The dam has been in need of work for years because the system of raising and lowering the gate, which involves two heavy-duty chains, has failed several times. Redesigning and replacing the gate could cost more than $500,000, so Ricker has been exploring a different system that uses adjustable flashboards. Flashboards are stationary planks that line the upper edge of the dam. The design being pursued would make the flashboards moveable through the use of hydraulics, which would allow the town and Sebasticook Lake Association to adjust the level of the lake without using the gate.

Ricker said the flashboard project was already started last year on one section of the dam and that some $9,500 in materials already have been purchased. With the help of local volunteers Tom Hart, Bill Longmuir and Kevin Tozier, Ricker hopes to have the first part of the system operational by the end of October.

“If that part of it works, next year we’ll manufacture and install the other three sections during the draw-down of 2010,” said Ricker. The town typically lowers the level of the lake shortly after Labor Day.

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