CAMDEN, Maine — A logging operation that began in March to develop new ski trails at the Camden Snow Bowl went off track last month, resulting in mud flowing into the adjacent Hosmer Pond.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection met with town officials Monday and toured the work area and pond. The town manager said she expects the town to be fined for the violations.
Camden Town Manager Patricia Finnigan acknowledged Wednesday the logging operation went off plan toward the end of the project, with workers cutting down more trees than needed and then failing to take proper erosion control measures.
“We all feel we didn’t do our job,” Finnigan said. “Things got away from us as the loggers were wrapping up.”
The logging began in March as part of a $6.5 million redevelopment of the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area. About 15 acres was cleared to create the new trails.
The problems did not begin until Friday, June 13, when an overnight storm dumped 3½ inches of rain on the mountain, Finnigan said. The heavy rain caused soil, which had been deposited in the Camden Snow Bowl parking lot along with cut trees, to run off into Hosmer Pond.
The pond is part of the recreation area.
Finnigan said the town asked the logging company to redouble its effort to prevent such erosion, and the town believed it would be done. Then on June 25 and 26 another heavy rain storm occurred and caused additional soil to flow into the pond.
The town contacted the DEP when the first incident occurred and sent photographs of the impact on the pond. The Snow Bowl manager also sent a letter to the Hosmer Pond Association apologizing for what occurred.
Hosmer Pond area residents contacted the DEP immediately after the second storm, and the agency called for Monday’s meeting with town officials and other concerned parties.
The town has since hired Farley and Sons Landscaping to cover open areas on the mountain and take steps to prevent further erosion, Finnigan said.
The town manager said she expects the DEP will penalize the town, and the town will enter into a consent agreement. Details have not been developed on that agreement.
The DEP’s priority is to stabilize the area in preparation of thunderstorms in the forecast for Thursday, DEP Communications Director Jessamine Logan said Wednesday.
“We will be evaluating the environmental impacts of the clearing, which will include the water quality at the pond. We do expect to be taking enforcement action at a later date. But again, our priority is to see as much stabilization as possible of the area to prevent more erosion,” Logan said.
The logging work was done by BCD Excavation and Forestry of Jefferson, and the town also hired Mid-Maine Forestry of Warren to come up with a forestry plan and make sure the logging work was being done properly, Finnigan said. The town was not paying the logging company, the town manager pointed out, because the firm was selling the cleared timber.
Bruce Dawson of BCD Excavation said Wednesday he was under the understanding the erosion control measures were the responsibility of the town.
Mitch Kihn of Mid-Maine Forestry said he believed the responsibility for erosion control was with the town’s general contractor for the redevelopment project. He said his role was to mark which trees were to be cut and make sure only the marked trees were being harvested.
Finnigan said the next step is for the trails to be constructed. Royal Trail Works of Vermont attended the Monday meeting with DEP to go over what they plan to do. The town manager said Royal Trail Works has considerable experience on working on mountains bigger and steeper than Ragged Mountain.
She acknowledged the Snow Bowl will remain a construction site until it reopens for the season in December.
The pond is getting less murky, Finnigan said. The pond is a healthy and gets a lot of water flowing through it, she said. There have been no reports of fish dying from the flow of dirt into the pond, she said. Hosmer Pond is a 53-acre pond that has depths of up to 16 feet, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.