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State gives tentative approval to $200,000 Howland cleanup grants

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Workers for Cianbro Corp. work on building a new bridge over the Piscatiquis River in Howland on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. The project is part of several efforts to revitalize Howland, including a plan to raze the former Howland Tannery building that is in line to receive more than $200,000 in grants.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

HOWLAND, Maine — Town leaders have received conditional approval for about $200,000 in grants that would allow them to begin demolishing the former Howland tannery building, Town Manager Jane Jones said Wednesday.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection requires town leaders to answer some supplemental questions and provide a letter reaffirming its partnership with the Penobscot River Restoration Trust to get the funding, Jones said. She expects to answer DEP’s requirements by Friday.

“Between that funding, some money that we [hope to] be getting from Penobscot River Restoration Trust and some of the money we have in the town’s tannery building account, we expect that we will be able to start from the front of the building and knock down as much of it as we can,” Jones said Wednesday.

The town has set aside $35,000 for the tannery razing and Jones declined to say how much PRRT would be donating to the project.

Once home to the town’s largest employer, the tannery site is part of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust’s plans to build a fish bypass in a project designed to open nearly 1,000 miles of habitat to Atlantic salmon, alewives and other sea-run fish now blocked from migrating upriver. The project was permitted last year.

As part of the project, town officials are developing once-contaminated land not occupied by the bypass. The town was awarded a $600,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant in May 2009 to pay for the removal of contaminants left on three shoreline spots. Cleanup work began last year and is expected to finish this year.

The Board of Selectmen hopes to invite Laura Rose Day, the trust’s executive director, to visit Howland within a few weeks to allow all sides involved in the project to update one another as to their individual progress, Jones said.

Another project on land adjacent to the tannery, the building of a new nearly $10 million bridge across the Piscataquis River, is going well, said Archie Wheaton, project supervisor for Cianbro Corp., the company building the bridge for the Maine Department of Transportation.

Cianbro workers have finished placing concrete within the abutment on the east side of the river and on Wednesday were digging out the second abutment. The workers hope to finish all the concrete subroad surface work by the end of the year, Wheaton said.

“It’s way early, but we are making good progress,” Wheaton said.

Selectmen, meanwhile, agreed earlier this week to try to revitalize the economic development committee charged with helping reshape the tannery land once the bypass is installed, Jones said.

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