OXFORD — Officials are expected to learn next month how much it may cost to repair or replace the failing Welchville Dam
The board has advertised for prices for both options. They are due in the Town Office by December 13.
Selectmen have been grappling with the future of the dam, located on the Little Androscoggin River near the intersection of Routes 26 and 121 in the Welchville section of town, since MBP Consultants of Portland deemed it structurally unsound.
Last year, Myron Petrovsky of MBP Consultants told the board that it could cost about about $1.4 million to repair the dam or about $900,000 to build a new dam. Cost estimates to remove the dam were not available, but no longer appears to be an option.
“The request for pricing is based on my conceptual repair design for the Welchville Dam prepared in 2016,” Petrovsky told the Advertiser Democrat last week.
In June 2017 former Interim Town Manager Becky Lippincott recommended to the board that the dam be replaced, but concerns over money and other questions stalled action.
“To be honest with you, we don’t have a million dollars right now and I’m not sure anyone would like to see a $1 million [impact] in their taxes next year,” Selectman Floyd Thayer told the group at a workshop in November 2017.
There is also minimal, if any, financial help available for the project.
The problem, officials said last year, is that the town is only eligible for up to $100,000 in loans because the dam is considered a Class 3, or low-risk dam.
The dam, which was built about 1860, rebuilt in 1953 and in 1994, the upper part of the sluiceway was replaced.
MBP had inspected the dam in 2012 and reported at that time that the structure was in fair to poor condition. the problems included deterioration of the cribworks and washed out or lifted deck boards. and missing structural timbers, That and other damage left the dam unprotected against erosion.
Petrovsky told residents and officials last year that although the Welchville Dam is considered a “low-hazard” structure, if the dam fails the water levels of Whitney and Hogan ponds to drop at least five to six feet.
The 170-acre Whitney Pond has a maximum depth of 24 feet, while the 177-acre Hogan Pond has a depth of 34 feet.
Summer and winter residents of Whitney and Hogan ponds, which are popular summer destinations and home to several campgrounds, lie parallel to each other and are interconnected at the northern end, have been monitoring the situation because of concern over what the removal of the dam might do to the water level of both ponds. The outlet leads to the Little Androscoggin River and on to the Welchville Dam.