May 27, 2018
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Howland selectmen prepare for tannery cleanup proposals

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

HOWLAND, Maine — The Board of Selectmen is just about ready to look for a consultant to oversee the cleanup of a former Penobscot River tannery abandoned for nearly 40 years, Town Manager Jane Jones says.

The board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the town office to discuss and issue a request for proposals to hire the consultant, who is likely to be an environmental engineer familiar with such work, Jones said. Residents are invited to attend.

“We have had an extraordinary number of qualified environmental engineers who have made inquiries already,” Jones said Wednesday. “We are expecting to get a lot of interesting proposals.”

A $600,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant was already received in May to clean three contaminated sites from the shoreline of the town-owned 12-acre property off Route 6.

The request for proposals likely will be returned in 30 days, with selectmen choosing a consultant soon after, Jones said.

The tannery has long been seen as a symbol of the town’s economic doldrums since it closed in 1971. Five times since then the town has sold the property, which overlooks the Penobscot and Piscataquis rivers, but has had to reclaim it when owners left. Once the home of the town’s largest employer, the tannery site has loomed large in more recent revitalization plans that proponents hope to realize by 2012.

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust plans to build a fish bypass near the tannery site, green some tannery land, raze the crumbling tannery building and dig a channel for the bypass as part of opening nearly 1,000 miles of habitat to Atlantic salmon, alewives and other sea-run fish now blocked from migrating upstream. The trust also plans to buy three other dams along the river.

Maine Department of Transportation officials, meanwhile, will build a new bridge over the river starting next year.

The removal of contaminants was likely the largest hurdle to fully restoring the site. Selectmen have established an economic development committee to help redevelop the tannery area. Jones, meanwhile, is looking for federal funding sources to pay for razing the site’s cluster of buildings, she said. No cost estimates are available.

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