Kennebunk power district plans for future of Mousam River dams

Posted July 18, 2013, at 10:04 a.m.
Last modified July 23, 2013, at 8:46 p.m.

KENNEBUNK, Maine — The Kennebunk Light and Power District is beginning the process of potentially relicensing its hydroelectric dams on the Mousam River, a lengthy process that will include exploring a variety of ideas with many opportunities for the public to be involved, the district says.

KLPD held its first informational meeting July 16 at the Town Hall, with approximately 40 community members present, to share information on the relicensing process. Community members asked about the district’s process, ideas that will be explored, and how they can be involved.

The district’s three hydroelectric sites — the Twine Mill, Kesslen and Dane Perkins dams — are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The current license expires March 31, 2022, and the district must notify the FERC of its plans for the sites by March 2017. The district’s board of trustees has set its own goal of determining the future of the sites by 2015 to ensure proper planning and funding can be put into place, said Sharon Staz, KLPD general manager and treasurer.

“This is very much the beginning of the process,” Staz said, stressing that no decision or plan has been determined at this time.

The timeline, Staz said, gives the district “the opportunity to do all the research and analysis that are going to be necessary to make the right decision,” and allows the district to support costs within its normal operating budget.

“We need to do this right,” she said.

The KLPD has generated power from the Kesslen Dam, located near Lafayette Center, since 1893. About two miles upstream is the Twine Mill Dam, which has generated electricity for the KLPD since the mid-1980s, Staz said, and was previously used to spin cotton into twine for fishing nets.

The Dane Perkins Dam is about a half mile up from there, and is a former sawmill that has provided power for the district also since the mid-1980s.

At their prime, the dams provide 5 percent of KLPD’s power, Staz said. That number has been as low as 1 percent, she said. In the past few months of this year, the sites have generated 3 percent of the district’s provided power.

The cost per kilowatt of power produced through the dams is two cents less than market cost, Staz said.

The goal in moving forward, Staz said, is to design a cost-effective plan that balances and meets the needs of KLPD customers, residents, environmental groups and others.

In addition, depending on what plan the KLPD decides to move forward with, a townwide vote may be needed, particularly if the district decides to borrow funds.

“There will be many opportunities at many levels along the way so it won’t come as a surprise as to what the outcome might be,” Staz said.

KLPD will explore relicensing all three sites, surrendering the sites and ceasing operations, and selling or leasing the sites, Staz said. The board will determine costs of various ideas, what provides the most reliable power supply at the lowest cost, and will also explore other sources of renewable energy as well as available grants and funding support.

“We think it all needs to be looked at and explored,” Staz said. “It’s due diligence on the part of the board and the district to assess all possibilities.”

Also important, Staz said, is understanding the community value of maintaining the dams, as well as their historical and recreational value.

“People have attachments to this. Unfortunately, it doesn’t impact the cost of generating electricity, but we have to keep it in mind,” she said.

Questions or comments about the process can be directed to Staz at stazhydro@klpd.org.

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