Pricey dam repair on Otisfield’s and Casco’s agendas

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By Leslie H. Dixon

CASCO — Bids are out on the Pleasant Lake Dam repair project.

BIDDERS — Otisfield Selectmen Chairman Hal Feguson, right, meets with potential bidders at the Pleasant Lake dam project information meeting last week.
BIDDERS — Otisfield Selectmen Chairman Hal Feguson, right, meets with potential bidders at the Pleasant Lake dam project information meeting last week.

Voters in Casco and Otisfield are expected to vote on articles at their respective Wednesday, June 15 and Saturday, June 25 annual town meetings to approve spending what is currently estimated between $400,000 and $550,000 to repair the Pleasant Lake dam in Casco.

Each town would be responsible for half the costs of the shared project, but the exact number will not be known until bids are opened on Monday, May 16, and one is accepted.

Bids are due at the Casco Town Office by 4:30 p.m. on May 16.

If approved by a majority of voters in each town, the money will address the final design and engineering costs. Construction is planned for this fall.

In the interim, officials say water levels will be held approximately eight inches lower than target levels to relieve pressure on the dam.
Casco and Otisfield selectmen received a report from the Maine Emergency Management Agency in 2014 that said there is significant leakage and structural deterioration at the dam.
Officials say the dam, which is in Casco but owned by both towns, is leaking as much as 1,000 gallons of water per minute in at least three places. Attempts to keep the water from undermining the structure have been difficult. The towns face significant fines by the Department of Environmental Protection if the dam fails.
The town boards, along with Peter Barber, president of the Pleasant Lake Association, and others have been meeting since then to develop a plan of attack.
On Wednesday, April 27, prospective bidders met with town officials and project engineer on site at the dam which is located next to the Hancock Lumber Company offices on Route 121 in Casco. The pre-bid meeting allows prospective bidders to ask questions about the project before they submit their bid.

Prospective bidders from half a dozen companies met with Casco Town Manager Dave Morton, and Casco selectmen Mary-Vienessa Fernandes, Holly Hancock and Tom Peaslee, plus Otisfield Selectmen Chairman Hal Ferguson, project Engineer Myron Petrosky of MBP Consulting in Portland and Ross Cudlitz, an engineer who works with the county soil and water conservation services and will be the representative on site for the towns during the construction.

Petrosky authored a report on the dam’s condition for the two boards in 2014 and said the overall condition of the dam is poor and almost every component of the dam is leaking.

Among the problems the winning contractor will have to face in the work is to install a sluice to ensure the thousands of fish in the state hatchery downstream of the dam have water to stay alive during construction, and the potential noise from the construction to the guests of the adjacent Pleasant Lake House.

The dam is on Mill Brook, behind the Hancock Lumber office on Route 121. It regulates the water level of the 3.8-mile-long Pleasant Lake, which lies in Casco and Otisfield. There are numerous homes and cottages around the lake, 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.

The dam has been jointly owned, operated and maintained by Casco and Otisfield since 1994. It previously was owned by Hancock Lumber Co.

According to the Maine Dams Inventory, the 110-foot-long, 12-foot-high dam was built in 1850, repaired in 1980 and has low-hazard classification, meaning there is nothing significant downstream that would be affected by a dam breach.

As soon as the bid is awarded, articles will be drawn up for town meeting action in June by both towns.
ldixon@sunmediagroup.net