BELFAST, Maine — Pending approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an agreement has been reached to sell five dams on Goose River and four hydroelectric generation plants to a company based in South Portland.
Goose River Hydro was founded by Larry and Cathy Gleeson in the late 1970s. Larry Gleeson died suddenly three years ago, and since then, Cathy Gleeson has explored options for the dams and power stations. One of those options was to sell the electric generation facility to the city of Belfast. The city had negotiated a purchase option with Gleeson for $125,000, but let it expire without taking action a month ago.
Now, Clifford Ginn and Sam Spencer, doing business as Independence Hydro, have an agreement with Gleeson to purchase the dams and generation facilities. Both parties have filed the required request with FERC.
The five dams and four hydropower facilities have the capacity to produce 369 kilowatts of electricity, Ginn said. At its peak, the generators could provide the electricity needs of 250 houses.
Gleeson said just one of the generators has been operating in the last year.
If the transfer is approved and the purchase completed, the Goose River facilities would become Independence Hydro’s first project. The company “is exploring small hydro development in Maine,” Ginn said.
“This is the first one that we are exploring,” Ginn said. He added that he and his partner believe the Belfast facilities have “enormous potential,” though the dams have not produced power for about three years.
If Independence Hydro takes over, it likely faces significant redevelopment costs. When the city was considering purchasing the plants, capital improvement and operating costs were estimated at as much as $4.6 million over 20 years, according to Belfast Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge.
Cathy Gleeson was pleased about Independence Hydro’s interest in the dams and optimistic that the transfer would be approved by FERC. The 30-day public comment period for the license transfer was about half over, she said.
“I am very hopeful that this is going to go through,” she said, “and that this is going to be really successful for them.”
In addition to reviving the energy production, Gleeson was cheered that a new business would be involved in town.
The dams — at one time, as many as 33 — date back to the 19th century on the 10-mile long river that links the outlet of Swan Lake in Swanville with Penobscot Bay. Though the Goose River watershed is about half of Belfast’s Passagassawakeag River, it has a better containment area, the late Larry Gleeson noted in a 2005 interview.