By Shawn McBride—Camden, Maine
If there is any flooding problem at all surrounding the fate of our beloved Montgomery Dam, it is the tsunami of propaganda spewing from the Camden Select Board and their hand-picked collaborators, in service to their preconceived intentions for the Megunticook River. Tides of their deliberate distortions and misconceived expectations rise from the town website, the so-called “Restore” Megunticook movement, along with their coordinated petitioning. Now it’s going to get pretty deep here, so you might want to grab those muck boots of yours.
First, make no mistake, while the Select Board and “Restore” Megunticook movement claim to be observing “a holistic and wide-ranging examination of all options,” they are in fact hell-bent on pursuing their myopic, single-minded approach that would needlessly destroy our Montgomery Dam forever. All while dismissing researched, reasoned, and viable alternatives, presented to them by contracted professionals and committed citizens alike. Alternatives that would otherwise preserve the dam along with its singular historical aesthetic and immense contemporary value for Camden. Perhaps this is why town administrators are now meeting behind closed doors with unnamed individuals to be newly, purposefully recruited as consultants tasked with executing the board’s predetermined agenda for river restoration.
Of all the arguments made intending to sell the destruction of Montgomery Dam to us, few are more widespread and less able to hold water than those related to flooding. The Select Board and “Restore” Megunticook claim that the dam increases flood risk downtown and must be removed to “enhance flood resiliency.” In fact, this argument is an insult that contradicts common sense and the laws of nature, with the Montgomery Dam posing absolutely no impact on flooding risk.
To fully appreciate this, first recognize that the top of Montgomery Dam is almost 8 feet below street level. Now, imagine (or recall) you or one of your kids overfilling the bathtub. When breaching the edge of the tub, where does (or did) the water go? Over the tub’s lip onto the bathroom floor below, right? Right. That water sure didn’t climb 8 feet up the bathroom walls, did it? This same conclusion (about our dam, not your bathtub) was reached by professionals specializing in applied river and wetland restoration — Inter-Fluve — in their reports readily available on the town’s website and, by the way, to town administrators.
In the event their reasoning is justly called into question, “Restore” Megunticook also aims to play on our fears, asking us to recall the storm of Halloween 2021 and remember the coincident flooding (falsely attributed to the dam by them). In doing so, they fail to disclose the fact that this flooding was not caused by Montgomery Dam at all, but rather by the town’s overwhelmed drainage system of sewers and culverts.Advertisement
To further entice us into buying their plans for river restoration with the removal of Montgomery Dam, the bill of goods being sold by the Select Board and the “Restore” Megunticook movement includes fanciful attractions such as “more sport fishing opportunities,” “spring events featuring fish runs up the river,” “trail and pocket parks along the river,” and even “kayak[ing] from Norton Pond to Curtis Island!” First — given the fact that the river drops more than 130 feet in elevation from Megunticook Lake to Camden Harbor — we could imagine they intend this to be white-water kayaking. But for whom? Not most likely for the vacationing families and retirees who visit Midcoast Maine each year. Or rather, is it intended for a select few to include some of the most vocal, and powerful, proponents for the removal of Montgomery Dam?
The facts of the matter are that the Megunticook watershed, Camden and the entire Midcoast region already abound with plentiful opportunities for sport fishing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and a host of other possibilities for outdoor recreation. Also, quite contrary to what the Select Board and “Restore” Megunticook movement would have us believe, the Montgomery Dam does not increase the risk of flooding, period. There is no need, or gain, in us sacrificing our iconic Montgomery Dam that already holds such historical significance for all of us and such wondrous allure for those who visit and support our town each year.