Massive ice chunks float down Kenduskeag as Bangor braces for possible flooding

Posted Jan. 17, 2014, at 4:07 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 17, 2014, at 6:59 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Huge chunks of ice rose up the side of the Kenduskeag Stream at high tide Friday. Streets and parking lots surrounding the Kenduskeag Plaza area were closed by the city.

Dale Hustus, the building manager at Merchants Plaza in Bangor, looked down at the ice on a bridge over the stream. Hustus, who is frequently in a maintenance room of the Merchants Plaza, frequently sees the high water marks recorded from high Kenduskeag flooding in the ’70s and ’80s.

“Right here’s the high water mark of 4/3/87,” said Hustus

A labeled mark on the wall states that on Feb. 2, 1976, flooding from the Kenduskeag reached 6 feet, 2 inches. Ice buildup on the Penobscot River has brought out the Coast Guard ice cutter and potential for flooding on Friday in Bangor.

“I remember [in 1976] we had cars floating down, they had a couple rescues,” said Hustus.

According to published accounts from 1976, the storm and flood caused $2 million in damage.

And while river-watchers on the nearby Penobscot may be noticing massive piles of ice cakes pushed up against the banks, those involved with the Penobscot River Restoration Project say there’s nothing abnormal going on in the river, and the removal of two dams in recent years has not exacerbated the situation.

“The bottom line is [the removal of the Veazie Dam] over the summer doesn’t change anything. The flow of water doesn’t change at all,” said Scott Hall, manager of environmental services for Black Bear Hydro Partners LLC.

Laura Rose Day, the executive director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, said before permitting for the dams was approved, plenty of research had to be done in the Army Corps of Engineers “ice lab.”

“We did ice studies and they showed no effects [from the potential removal of dams],” Rose Day said. “The model went significantly down below the Veazie Dam. We included Bangor and Brewer and the stretch [of the river] below.”