OTISFIELD — The $500,000 replacement of the Pleasant Lake Dam on Route 121 in Casco is causing unstable water levels in Pleasant Lake and Parker Pond.
Signs have been posted in Otisfield and Casco warning, “Folks who are recreating on Pleasant Lake or Parker Pond should do so with caution. Water levels will be receding under the ice and may result in unsafe conditions in certain areas.”
The fluctuating water levels were discovered recently and have not only caused concern temporarily for the safety of those venturing onto the lake but for a few camp owners as water began to rise and flood their property.
Officials have scrambled to stabilize the water by removing sandbags in one of the two coffer dams installed during replacement of the dam to allow the water level to recede, said Selectmen Chairman Hal Ferguson. The process should be done in a week or two.
The dam is between the Hancock Lumber office building parking lot and the Pleasant Lake House Bed and Breakfast on Route 121. It controls the water level in the 4-mile-long lake that lies in both towns.
The lake has private camps, cottages and homes along it, as well as the Seeds of Peace International Camp on the western shore and Camp Arcadia for Girls on the eastern shore, both in Otisfield.
In 2014, Casco and Otisfield selectmen received a report from the Maine Emergency Management Agency about leaks and structural deterioration at the spillway dam. The towns faced significant fines from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection if the dam failed.
Town officials and members of the Pleasant Lake and Parker Pond Association, developed a strategy to repair the dam and voters in Otisfield and Casco approved bonding $250,000 each in June 2016.
In June 2016, selectmen in Casco and Otisfield approved a $421,639 bid by T-Buck Construction for repairs.
The current unstable water condition appears to have started when the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Division built a second coffer dam on the north side of Route 121 to install a pipe that would allow passageway for fish downstream while the dam was being replaced, said Ferguson.
A coffer dam had also been placed on the south side of the bridge to stop the water from flowing over where the construction of the new dam has been taking place.
But with warm temperatures and snow buildup, the water level began to build up and back up, Ferguson said. The levels became so high that water came up onto several camps on the Otisfield side of Pleasant Lake. A camp owner recently discovered the water under his camp and alerted officials.
Ferguson said some sandbags have now been removed from the IFW coffer dam and water being being let out and diverted through a makeshift passageway to try to stable the water levels in the two adjoining water bodies. The IFW project has been stopped for about two weeks while the water level is stabilized.
Meanwhile Ferguson said officials are doing everything they can to warn people to be careful if they are on the ice.
Replacement of the Pleasant Lake Dam is almost complete and it appears to be stable, but there has been an project overrun of about $38,000 for both Otisfield and Casco, Ferguson said.
Of the seven change orders necessary since the beginning of the construction in October 2016, five had monetary implications, he said. The majority were caused by a late start in the project.
“We had originally wanted to start at beginning of September but we didn’t start until the second week of October,” said Ferguson. The delay was caused by waiting for a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection to begin removing tons of sand and silt built up above the old dam, he said.
Construction workers also ran into an unknown very old dam that was underneath the existing structure, which required removing more of the existing structure. Other problems included snow, which had to be removed by shovel. It was hoped the project would be completed by December and the onset of winter weather.
Otisfield will be able to pay its share of the overrun without a special town meeting, Ferguson said
Ferguson said they will use unspent money from the $250,000 bond approved last June by annual town meeting members as Otifield’s share of the project. $5,000 will come from the remaining $10,000 in the Contingency Fund and the Pleasant Lake and Parker Pond Association has donated $10,000 to each town to go toward the overrun.
Otisfield also has $57,500 available from the sale of Lot 4 at Heniger Park to use if necessary. All the money is available at the discretion of the Board of Selectmen without town meeting action.
Ross A. Cudlitz, the project engineer for Engineering Assistance & Design Inc. in Yarmouth, has been overseeing the project on site for Casco and Otisfield. Myron Pertrovsky, design engineer of MBP Consulting, is the project designer.