Franklin Countys First News

Comment period now open for Walton’s Mill Dam project

The dam at Walton's Mill Pond Park in West Farmington.

FARMINGTON - A draft feasibility report is available to the public for review and comments between now and Dec. 29 concerning the Walton's Mill Dam in West Farmington. The report was presented by Wright-Pierce Engineer Joseph McLean and Atlantic Salmon Federation Director of New England programs John Burrows at a meeting last week that brought roughly 40 residents. It is available for review at both the Town Office and the Community Center on Middle Street.

"The report is not aimed at answering every single question. It's more about outlining some options for the dam," Burrows said. "All of the questions would be answered if the project ever reached a point of entering a permitting phase, which could take up to two years."

The options discussed in the report focus on the health and future of the endangered Atlantic Salmon, who have been documented spawning in Temple Stream by the Department of Marine Resources. Temple Stream was designated as critical habitat for the fish in 2009 by The National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Atlantic Salmon is the only species of salmon native to the east coast of the United States and only one percent of the historical population remains, according to the ASF website.

After thousand of years as a natural spawning site, the construction of what is now called Walton's Mill Dam in 1781 created a barrier for the path of the fish. Young salmon spend several years in the rivers they hatch in before becoming large enough to migrate to sea. At that point, the fish swim hundreds of miles to reach the ocean where they feed on plankton. Adult salmon return to their home river to lay eggs, a route they find from smell. Only five percent of salmon take a wrong turn on their journey home. Most salmon spawn only once or twice, though some have been known to lay eggs and migrate multiple times in a lifespan.

While the dam has created a barrier for the natural migration of the fish, completely changing the fish's ecosystem, it has also become a historic land site for the town.

Built in 1781 by Reuben Colburn and Stephen Pullen, the sawmill had several years of activity before being destroyed by flooding in 1785. It was rebuilt five years later only to be destroyed again by flooding in 1820. In 1836 the dam was reconstructed once again and is documented as being used as a grain thresher and rake maker in 1884 before turning back into a saw mill in the last years of its life. Now the dam sits, mostly used as a scenic viewpoint for picnicking park goers or paddlers.

Longtime residents of the area oppose making changes to the historic dam- people whose mothers, grandfathers and great grandfathers helped establish it and keep it intact. Others feel that its time for Farmington to join the efforts in revitalizing the endangered species.

In the eyes of the ASF, there are two options for the dam- a complete removal, or a fish way. The organization is taking the initial steps toward figuring out an answer that will meet the needs of the community as well as the fish, which the draft report outlines in detail. If completely removing the dam is something the townspeople want to see happen, there would be money provided to cover the project, in addition to park improvements for the surrounding area. However, if the townspeople decide a fish ladder is a better option, funding is limited and would have to be raised by the town- a project that is estimated at costing between $200,000 and $400,000 plus additional expenses for repairs to the existing structure.

"After the draft report is finalized it will be up to the town to decide what they want to do. The next steps will be up to them," Burrows said.

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21 Responses »

  1. It seems to me that a report on the success of the Sandy River salmon project would be a good way to start.

    It begs to be asked, just how far up a given stream do the salmon have to travel before they can spawn? It is there a good reason they could not just stop at the dam and lay their eggs?

    Will a negative response from the community really be able to stop this project?

    Who controls the Temple Stream, the community or the salmon foundation?

  2. Here goes another half million tax dollars wasted.....

  3. Its time to allow these creatures to return to their ancestral spawning grounds.

    We have taken their homeland away from them lomg enough. We have used it and now its time for them to return.

    God speed.

  4. What logic is used that says there is funding available to completely removed the dam but screw you if you opt for a fish ladder?
    As if a fish ladder won't help.. it absolutely will help.

    The purists are in control but out of control.

    Bunch of bunk...really.
    And they wonder why there is push back.

  5. The salmon foundation and the democrats will rule the day and waste our money. What happened to majority rules?

  6. @Captain Planet- if the dam removal option is chosen, the majority of the costs will be paid for by nonprofits such as Atlantic Salmon Federdation and private donors....i.e. very little tax dollars end up supporting projects such as this one

  7. It would be an honorable thing to help wild salmon return to these waters. When did people become so callous and cynical about doing the right thing for wildlife and nature!? This is an endangered species. We used to have a conservation ethic in this country we could be proud of. What happened!?

  8. Here"s hoping the Dam is an historic monument.

  9. You can go on line and search State of Maine Department of Marine Research. You will see the numbers of Atlantic Salmon trapped at the two dam locations they use on the Kennebec River.One showing zero trapped and the other showing 39 trapped. If I'm not mistaken the Temple Stream flows into the Sandy River that flows into the Kennebec River. It appears to me that removal of the Walton's Mills Dam is not going to help the Salmon at this point in history. The numbers don't seem to warrant spending the money on this project. Another resource for information is Maine They do claim some salmon success from the Sandy River. Get as informed as possible.

  10. Don't worry, if the dam goes, all surrounding properties will gain dry land! And lose valuable recreation property!

  11. Outdoor, have you gone to any of the presentations? If the dam comes out we will gain original wildlife habitat and a well improved park for more recreation opportunity. Also, the dam is in need of an estimated $350,000.00 in improvements if it is left as it is crumbling some. I understand the historical significance, but it was suggested that we memorialize the dam in the new improved park as much evidence of the dam will still be there.

  12. This is a Historic Dam. It's been there since before the town was incorporated in 1794. So if there was ever salmon in Temple Steam, it would have been before that.
    The numbers shared at the recent meeting were mind-boggling. Before it's over, the cost for repairing the dam and installing a salmon ladder is going to be in the $1 MILLION range. Then there's the proposed rebuild of the park - that's another $700,000. We can't have decent roads, but we can spend this kind of money on FISH???
    But taking out the dam will cost us nothing; the Salmon Federation will take care of that. BUT...what they don't tell you is that they pay for NOTHING else.
    The dam supports its age old eco-system. The water fowl love the pond - geese come in the spring on their way to where ever they go; then in the fall, they return for a bit, then move on. There have been duck families on the pond; beaver and musk rats have found it home for years. Blue Herons have been seen, and more recently there has been a bald eagle, maybe two.
    The pond has been a place for folks to canoe and kayak - we used to canoe the pond often. My kids loved seeing the beaver - watching him slap his tail on the surface. And red-wing black birds have come back to share the pond with other creatures. And many people enjoy the park for lunches - I doubt they'd come as much if there was no pond, or creatures to see.
    I hope people see the value of having a neat old dam and a pond near town where parties and weddings can be held with no cost. (Oh, yes...seen this happen)

  13. Leave the damn dam alone! I’ll bet those fishies can no longer smell their way back to Temple (if they really ever could, sounds fishy to me).

  14. I found this sweet little park many years ago and was enthralled by it. I took my husband to see it, and we spent much of the day exploring the place. I don't know its history, but it must have had some.

  15. Well said Nancy. Undisputable.

  16. John - are you saying that if the dam is not removed we'll have to pay $350,000 to keep it viable? Is it more expensive to keep the dam than remove it? There seems to be more emotion than facts out there at this point, I'm trying to figure out what is most cost effective. Also, you claim this will increase recreation and wild life, while others say that will be lost. How does one know which is right? Is there a website with clear information? On so many issues people take a stand without really gathering the data. It seems on an issue like this, there should be clear, well documented information.

  17. So ,in 1781 we blocked the natural path for salmon spawning in Temple Stream.I don't believe that Walton dam was the first obstacle they encountered after leaving Popham beach.I would be most interested in knowing what would happen if we just let the dam deteriorate.

  18. I'm thinking that an area with water and wildlife will attract more recreational use than a large patch of grass will attract.

  19. Imagine the tourism if we had salmon runs! Dams are not forever and although I love the park and kayaking in the pond I would much rather have the dam removed properly to encourage salmon runs than to have to pay out of property taxes for maintaining it later. The only thing natural about an old useless dam is that it will eventually fail and cost the stream and town in the long run. Swamps returning to fields and forests is a natural succession.

  20. Scott Erb: How about we come to YOUR neighborhood and destroy something YOU'VE enjoyed throughout the seasons? Mary Wright would be turning over in her grave if she knew this was happening. She was a staunch supporter of the dam, since back in 1976 when the town took over. There's a bench in her memory sitting right there overlooking the dam.
    So if we take out the dam, and we get salmon fishermen here, are they going to kick in for the cost of the new park? Or if we leave the dam and put in a fishway, are the fishermen going to kick in on that?
    What happens to the salmon when they get above Mile Rock? The stream is so low it won't float a leaf in July and August. Bet salmon witl lay on the rocks and get a tan, maybe?
    The way I see it is that over-fishing in the Canadian Provinces is being passed on to Maine towns who can't afford the results of the salmon restoration, when everyone else gets a nicely padded wallet.
    What happened to HOME RULE????
    These guys come here and stick their noses into places where they weren't invited, weren't wanted, and plan to change everything for some fish.
    Why don't they go to Phillips? Or Strong? Oh, I guess that the eggs that were seeded several years ago and were eaten by the crap fish wasn't in the plan. So they come to Farmington and want to take out the one and only dam around.

  21. Scott, there is a feasibility report that you can get at the town office, thanks for wanting to be informed. In this report are the numbers for options. One of the options is for a fishway, which will include at a minimium $350,000.00 to get the dam in shape enough for one, and then add the cost of the fishway and maintenance, i can't remember the exact number on those (from 450k up). Another option is to remove the dam, which private donors are offering to pay for and included in that is improving the park. This all comes from Temple stream being designated as essential habitat for endangered Salmon, so the town has already gotten a letter from the USFWS and NOAA saying the town has got to take some action on this, or it is considered what they call a "take". Someone would have to go after those agencies to stop the whole process.

    And yes, you could argue wildlife and recreation benefits for both the impound and the original stream. Please check out the report. You can also submit comments on what you would prefer done, the contact info. Is in the report as well.