Friday, August 19, 2016

Orland undertakes Comprehensive Planning

A comprehensive plan is an advisory document that reviews recent trends, identifies key issues and discusses what the town may face in the future. It sets goals for the future. While it makes recommendations on town expenditures and managing town growth, it does not take the place of town meetings. The last plan was prepared in 1998 and much has changed since then. A plan meeting State guidelines not only gives the town limited preference in certain competitive state grants, but also sets priorities for Selectmen and other town officials and committees.

The Orland Comprehensive Plan Committee is a group of volunteers working to create a vision to guide the Town of Orland into the future through the preparation of a comprehensive plan. The following are goals of the committee:

  • To provide recommendations for future planning to enhance the economic viability of the Town and its inhabitants;
  • To encourage the provision of desired services while minimizing the impact on property taxpayers and the rural character of the Town;
  • To encourage prudent municipal management of the Town's resources; and
  • To encourage land use that does not impose burdens on other residents of the Town or on the environment.
The Comprehensive Plan Committee meets the fourth Monday of each month at the Orland Community Center, at 6:30 pm. The public is welcome to attend

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Voting Results

On June 14, 2016, the citizens of Orland voted (433 to 232) to keep the Orland Village Dam and continue to pay for related maintenance and repair.

For more information, visit the Town of Orland website.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The economic impacts of dams and dam removals on local property values

by Lynne Lewis, Elmer W. Campbell Chair of Economics, Bates College

A number of scientific studies have shown that environmental amenities such as clean, free-flowing rivers provide positive value, including to local property values.

My colleague Curtis Bohlen I estimated the impacts of dams (and dam removals) on property values on the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers. We were particularly interested in the impact of the 1999 Edwards Dam removal on local property values. Had property values plummeted as local homeowners had feared? We collected house sales data and housing characteristics from before and after the dam removal. Using geographic information systems mapping technology, we were able to examine location and distance in particular.  On the Kennebec, we found a sizable penalty for living near a dam site. In other words, for an identical house, homeowners were willing to pay to live farther away from the dam. We found that when the Edwards Dam was removed from the Kennebec River, this penalty disappeared and nearby homes increased in value.

After our study on the Kennebec, we did a similar analysis on house sales along the Penobscot River prior to the removal of Great Works and Veazie Dams and found that people were also willing to pay to be farther from the river. We have not yet revisited the data to see how things have changed after the dam removal, but predict a similar increase in property values.

A study by William Provecher and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin also found that small dam removals improve nearby property values. Specifically, they found that “shoreline frontage along small impoundments confers no increase in residential property value compared to frontage along free-flowing streams and that nonfrontage residential property located in the vicinity of a free-flowing stream is more valuable than similar nonfrontage property in the vicinity of a small impoundment."

A 2006 study from Oregon looking at the economic effects of riparian corridors and upland wildlife habitat found strong evidence that property owners place a premium on lots with habitat providing the highest ecological values and a discount on lots with lower-valued habitat. The economic benefit of being adjacent to rivers and streams and high-quality riparian corridors even extended to properties up to half a mile from the valued resource.

An analysis of urban stream restoration projects in California estimated that restoration projects that reduce flood damage and improve fish habitat increase property values by 3 to 13 percent of the mean property price in the study area.

These studies offer convincing evidence of, what seems in hindsight, an obvious conclusion--people place a higher value on property adjacent to environments that are more natural and perceived as being more healthy and vibrant. A free-flowing river with a robust riparian corridor will be an appealing landscape with increasingly vibrant fish and wildlife populations, all of which can benefit nearby property values.

Finally, our homeowner survey work indicates that people value clean, free-flowing rivers including those who live on the river.     

Lewis, L.Y., C. Bohlen, and S. Wilson. 2008. Dams, dam removal, and river restoration: A hedonic property value analysis. Contemporary Economic Policy 26(2):175-186.

Netusil, N.R. 2013. Urban environmental amenities and property values: does ownership matter? Land Use Policy 31:371-377.
Netusil, N.R. 2006. Economic valuation of riparian corridors and upland wildlife habitat in an urban watershed. Journal of Water Research and Education 134(July):39-45.
Provencher, B., H. Sarakinos, and T. Meyer. 2008. Does small dam removal affect local property values? An empirical analysis. Contemporary Economic Policy 26(2):187-197.

Robbins, J.L., and L.Y. Lewis. 2008. Demolish it and they will come: estimating the economic impacts of restoring a recreational fishery. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 44(6):1488-1499.

Streiner, C. F., and J.B. Loomis. 1995. Estimating the benefits of urban stream restoration using the hedonic price method. Rivers 5.4:267-278.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A reversing falls at Orland?

Historical documents and engineering studies suggest that beneath the Orland Dam lay a tidal or "reversing" falls. These are fairly unique features in Maine, the result of glacial action and geologic circumstances that create narrow constrictions near the head of tide. Given the tremendous power of moving water, reversing falls were good places to build mills and other industry dependent on water power.

Stantec's visualizations of the Orland-Narramissic River before and after dam removal give some sense of what the river might look like without the dam. Different perspective is offered by other reversing tidal falls in Maine, shown in the slideshow below. Being attractive places to people, many tidal falls have roads across them (which can accentuate the falls by restricting them further); others, like the Sullivan Tidal Falls and Basin Cove in Harpswell, have public parks. The rapids are popular with whitewater boaters. The Bagaduce and Damariscotta falls are probably most similar to what might be at Orland.

Dam Forum on WERU

Local community radio station WERU-FM recorded the June 1 forum on the Orland Dam.

Listen here

Producer/Host: Amy Browne
Production Assistance: John Greenman

Today we have a special report on the proposal to remove the Orland Dam – a decision that regardless of which way it goes, will likely have impacts not only on that town, but on surrounding areas as well. Orland took over ownership of the dam from Verso in 2011. The dam has been found to have serious structural issues, has failed in the past, and currently salt water flows over the top periodically. It also blocks fish passage and the existing fish ladders are considered inadequate. The town will be voting on June 14th on a ballot question that gives 2 options: Keep the dam and have the town foot any associated costs, or move forward toward removal of the dam by working with NOAA fisheries and the Nature Conservancy to acquire available funding for removal of the dam and ancillary costs. NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the major forces behind the Penobscot River Restoration project. In 2014 they designated the Penobscot River Watershed as a “Habitat Focus Area” — one of just two on the east coast –citing the environmental, cultural and recreational significance of New England’s second largest river, which provides habitat to many migratory fish species, including 3 that are listed as endangered.

Those who oppose removing the dam are concerned about the impact on water front views, which would start changing with the tides, potential impacts of salt water on wells and bridges, and the need to find a new source of water for fire fighting (as the impoundment created by the dam has been used for that purpose)—and whether the grants the town might receive would cover those costs. The need to coordinate dam removal with the clean up of mercury in the river so as to not further mobilize a mercury hotspot just below the dam is also a concern.

At a well-attended forum Wednesday night in Orland, experts who have been studying the issues and agencies offering funding for the project, provided updates and heard comments and questions from the public. The entire presentation last more than 2 hours. This morning we hear from some of the panelists and a few of the public comments.

NOTE: The link to the full meeting (2+ hours in length) is also posted. The 1st link is for today’s program, the second is the full meeting.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What happens after the vote?

If the town decides to keep and maintain the dam:

Existing NOAA and TNC funding would be redirected to other projects.

The Town would have to proceed, working independently, with discussions and costs regarding stability of bridges (with the Department of Transportation); alewife harvesting and fish passage improvements (with Maine Department of Marine Resources); protection of species listed under the Endangered Species Act (with NOAA); and saltwater in the impoundment (with the Fire Department).

If a flood or storm surge were to damage or blow out the dam and/or fishway, the town would be responsible for remediation of any damage.

If the town elects to move forward with further evaluating dam removal:

It would be 3-4 years before the dam actually came out. According to Matthew Bernier of NOAA, “This is a big, complicated project that we couldn't fast track even if we wanted to. As the owner of the dam, the town is always in control of the schedule since they have to sign off on any permit applications.” Dam removal would depend on a number of required activities, including:

  • Additional sediment sampling (coring) for mercury upstream of the dam.
  • "Phase 1" archaeology and historical assessments.
  • The design, permitting and construction of alternative water supplies for fire fighting.
  • Redesign of alewife harvesting facility. 
  • The evaluation, design, permitting and construction of bridge protection measures in conjunction with the Maine DOT.  
  • Baseline monitoring of sediment, vegetation, water quality, fish and wildlife, contaminants (1-3 years) throughout the Orland-Narramissic River system. 
  • The design and permitting of dam removal and site reconstruction.

NOAA has provided money to The Nature Conservancy to move forward with these studies and design tasks, and is lining up funding for construction and monitoring activities.

Maine Department of Marine Resources letter to Orland Dam Committee

from a letter to the Orland Dam Committee from Claire Enterline, Maine Department of Marine Resources, 2013

RE: Orland Village Dam Alternatives Feasibility Study

To the members of the Orland Dam Committee:

The Maine Dept. of Marine Resouces (DMR) would like to commend the Committee for its efforts to identify alternatives to the current management of the Orland Village Dam, and offer comments and DMR data that may be helpful to the Committee moving forward.

DMR has documented Atlantic salmon, alewife, blueback herring, and American eel using habitat above the Orland Village Dam. Data from the University of Maine (G. Zydlewski, personal communication), and informal reports from town residents indicate that shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon are making use of the area below the dam and may be present above the dam on occasion. Additionally, town residents have informally noted that Atlantic gray seals are also seen below the dam and may be present above the dam on occasion. Of these species, Atlantic salmon, shortnose sturgeon, and Atlantic gray seals are currently listed as “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Atlantic sturgeon are listed at “Threatened”, and alewife, blueback herring, and American eel are currently being considered for listing under the ESA. Because of the status of these species, the ability of each to move efficiently and without harm between marine, estuary, and spawning locations is an important concern.

The June 2013 report, “Orland Village Dam Alternatives Feasibility Study”, prepared for the Committee by Stantec Consulting describes the potential impacts of four different alternatives on various resources including fisheries resources. The report indicates that two options (no action, dam and fishway rehabilitation) would have negligible beneficial impacts on the fisheries resource, and major adverse impacts on the fisheries resource. The DMR agrees with these conclusions. Current fish passage facilities in the form of two Alaskan steeppass sections that are not accessible for fish passage at all tides are inefficiently passing Atlantic salmon and river herring, and the American eel, specifically during the elver (juvenile) stage, do not pass Alaskan steeppass sections efficiently. Further, these structures are not large enough to pass other species that are in the Orland River (shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon, Atlantic gray seal). While these larger species may get above the dam only on the highest high tides, they will not be able to descend through the fishway or over the dam without injury. As the report indicates, the Maine Geologic Survey (MGS) for the Maine Coastal Program indicate that the State of Maine is planning for a predicted 2-ft rise in sea level over the next 100 years, which would increase the frequency of occurrences of the tide over topping the dam, and possibly also increase the number of Endangered marine species stranded behind the dam.

The report indicates that the third option, dam and fishway modification, would result in moderate beneficial and adverse impacts to fisheries resources. Again, DMR agrees with this conclusion. Fishway modification that would increase the passage efficiency and capacity would be moderately beneficial for river herring and Atlantic salmon, but as the report states there are “inherent limitations of technical fishpasses” and 100% upstream and downstream passage efficiency would likely not be achieved. Further, fishway modifications would not provide any benefit to the larger marine species that are also present in the area. Additionally, if the fishway modifications suggested in the report (Denil-style fishway) are used, passage for the elver stage of American eel would need to be built separately as Denil-style fishways do not effectively pass elvers (the estimated cost associated with the option does not include additional elver passage construction/maintenance).

The report indicates that the fourth option, dam removal, would result in major beneficial and minor adverse impacts to fisheries resources. The DMR again agrees with the conclusion that there would be major beneficial impacts to the fisheries resources. This alternative would provide unobstructed access to the species currently found within the area, and would likely result in increased spawning habitat for blueback herring, American shad, rainbow smelt, and Atlantic tomcod, all which spawn within freshwater mainstem habitat where water is quick moving. Improving the populations of these species within this river stretch could lead to increased recreational fishing opportunities, especially for American shad and rainbow smelt which support popular recreational fishing in other areas of the state.

The report also indicates that this option would have “moderate beneficial and moderate adverse impacts to river herring harvesting facilities located immediately downstream from the Orland Village Dam. The moderate beneficial impact … based on the potential for increased alewife production and associated increased revenue for facilities operation and maintenance. [The] adverse intensity level … based on the assumption that the existing facility could still be used at low tide. A higher adverse intensity level would be appropriate if it was determined that alewife harvesting operations would need to be moved upstream to the vicinity of the Alamoosook Lake Dam.” The DMR recommends that the Orland Dam Committee consider these statement together with other information regarding the harvest and its current location, presented below.

The DMR provides the following information about the river herring harvest for the Orland Dam Committee to consider in addition to the report prepared by Stantec Consulting, and with the hope of providing insight into DMR’s management of the river herring fishery as well as biological considerations.

...All commercial river herring harvests in Maine are approved jointly by the DMR and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a multi-state group that collaboratively forms management decisions about fisheries for species that cross state boundaries, based on sustainability criteria that were adopted in 2009. Fisheries that were allowed to remain open had to meet the following criteria: the run could not be stocked with river herring from an outside source, average 20-year escapement during closed days had to exceed 35 fish per acre of spawning habitat, and the spawning population had to be considered biologically stable (as evidenced by age distribution and repeat spawning rates). The Orland fishery was approved to remain open because the escapement target (35 fish/acre) was based only on the acreage of Alamoosook Lake, not all available habitat, based on the assumption that other available habitat was not productive for alewives because of the high number of non-native predator gamefish species (largemouth bass, chain pickerel). If all available habitat were to be considered (4968 acres), the watershed could potentially support 1,167,385 alewives without a harvest (based on a production capacity of 235 fish/acre), and with a harvest would require escapement of 173,865 alewives (35 fish/acre). If the harvest location were to move to a location targeting fewer spawning lakes, only the acreage of the spawning lakes above that new location would be considered when calculating the target escapement.

The commercial harvest is currently encountering immature blueback herring and alewife (age 1-2). The harvest of immature river herring does not meet the sustainability standards identified by the DMR and the ASMFC because the origin of these fish cannot be determined and because the fish have not yet been able to spawn. Blueback herring  and alewife reach maturation at sometimes 3-years-old, but more typically 4-years old. At this point, the fish ascend freshwater rivers to spawn, and then return to coastal waters. Because the adult spawning fish return to the same location every year, we are able to define these adult spawning fish as unique “stocks” according to their spawning locations, and track the status of that population stock over time.  It is not possible at this time, however, to determine the “birth place” of immature fish. Immature fish, under the age of 3 or 4-years-old, from the entire Atlantic Coast, from Florida to Labrador, likely school together spending winters off of Cape Hatteras, NC, and migrating upwards along the coast annually as part of feeding. Because of these migration patterns, the immature fish in near-shore coastal Maine likely belong to a “mixed stock” that is not managed by Maine, but originated from multiple states, each returning to the original spawning location once they are mature. Because there are serious river herring population declines to the south, Maine has entered into agreement with all other Atlantic states to not allow fisheries to target these immature fish of unknown origin. While some bycatch of immature fish may occur, continued catches of immature will become a problem. Tables showing the age distribution at the Orland harvest location by year and compared to other harvest locations are attached.

The term “repeat spawning rate” is used to describe the number of alewives or blueback herring that have spawned in one or more previous years. Unlike some anadromous species, both alewife and blueback herring typically do not die after spawning, but return to the ocean and will return to the same location annually. The migration into freshwater for spawning leaves a mark on the fish’s scales that we use to identify how many times each fish spawned in years prior. A run with a high repeat spawning rate indicates that many fish are successfully spawning in multiple years, so have high survival and is likely a more stable run over time. Tables attached to this letter show the repeat spawning rates for the current harvest location, for alewives taken from the fishway leading into Toddy Pond, and for all other harvest locations. Combining 2008-2012, the current harvest location has, on average, a lower repeat spawning rate than the fish taken from the Toddy Pond fishway. Further, the Toddy Pond fishway samples were composed entirely of alewife, while both alewife and blueback herring are caught at the current harvest site.

for information about alewives and other migratory fish in the Orland-Narramissic river system, contact Oliver Cox at Maine Department of Marine Resources, 207.941.4487.