ELLSWORTH, Maine — City councilors on Monday approved an agreement with the state that paves the way for the city to manage a public boat launch that the Bureau of Parks and Lands plans to build on Branch Lake.
The agreement will enable the city to oversee all of the operations at the state boat launch once it is built. The agreement has been a long time coming, and it will ease the minds of city officials who have been concerned about another public boat launch on the lake, which is the city’s water supply.
“We’ve been talking about this issue for five or six years,” Councilor Stephen Beathem said. “There have been many hours of work involved in this. It’s been a very long process.”
Beathem noted that the council’s main concern has been to protect the water supply.
City Manager Michelle Beal said the city would have administrative authority and oversight of the planned boat launch, including control over inspecting boats going into the lake to monitor for invasive species.
“It would be very similar to what we do on our boat launch,” Beal told councilors Monday.
Mayor John Phillips said that with the agreement, Ellsworth would manage a controlled site with a single point of entry to the lake. That will allow the city to monitor boat traffic onto the lake, particularly transient boats.
“The problem boats are not the resident boats; it’s the transient boats,” Phillips said. “That’s what we’re trying to get a handle on.”
Although the agreement itself carries no cost to the city, managing the facility is likely to bring with it added costs, in personnel and in construction. Although the Department of Conservation will cover the cost of building the boat launch, the city will have to pick up the cost for an employee shelter and a facility for washing down boats before they enter the lake, Phillips said.
Also, there likely will be increased staffing costs to manage a second boat launch. Phillips said the council is reviewing what those increased costs might be.
There is still more work to do on the management agreement. According to Beal, the city and the state still have to work out specific details on how the facility will be run. City and department officials plan to meet Friday to review detailed plans for the launch and to discuss operational plans.
In addition to the boat launch itself, which will be located near the existing state beach on the lake, the state plans to construct a new road from Happytown Road to the boat launch.
According to Beal, the state is ready to begin the project. The funds have been allocated, she said, and construction could begin as early as this summer.