The Head Tide Dam Committee’s recent proposal for the dam might not be ready to go to a vote at Alna’s annual town meeting in March, selectmen said at the Alna Board of Selectmen’s Wednesday, Jan. 4 meeting.
There are still “a lot of hurdles” the proposal must clear, First Selectman David Abbott said. “The political issues are going to be the hard thing,” he said.
David Sutter, Alna’s alewife harvester; and Ron Colby, who owns property upstream and downstream of the dam, attended the selectmen’s meeting to speak out against what they said has been a flawed process.
Sutter, who has intimate knowledge of the site, said he was not contacted by anyone on the committee as it worked to develop the proposal.
“I haven’t heard a word from anyone,” Sutter said. Sutter said he would like to be presented with valid scientific data about how the modifications to the dam would improve fish passage, which he said he has not seen.
Colby said he did not like the process Alna has followed. “I don’t like the way business has been done right from the beginning,” Colby said.
The current proposal would require the construction of a retaining wall on his downstream property, he said.
The Head Tide Dam has been a hot-button topic in Alna for almost two years, after the town was contacted by the Atlantic Salmon Federation about modifying the dam to improve fish passage.
The dam, however, was deeded to the town with the stipulation that it not be destroyed. Several members of the initial committee that formed “had a predetermined position,” Third Selectman David Baston said, which involved substantially altering or removing the dam.
“We started off on a bad foot,” Baston said. A smaller committee was formed and charged with finding a solution that would improve fish passage while respecting the covenant placed on the dam.
In December, the committee unanimously recommended a proposal to remove the right abutment of the dam and replace it with a new platform with a wider opening for fish passage.
Second Selectman Melissa Spinney served on the committee that brought the recommendation forward, but was not in attendance Jan. 4 to address Sutter’s questions.
In reviewing an earlier proposal for the Head Tide Dam, Alna town attorney David Soule said he did not think the proposal would violate the covenant on the dam.
The proposal Soule reviewed, however, was not the proposal unanimously recommended by the committee; the committee’s proposal features a slightly larger opening, Baston said. Soule will need to review the current proposal, he said.
“There are two questions that need to be answered – can we legally do it and should we do it,” Baston said.
With Alna’s annual town meeting a little more than two months away, it is crunch time for putting together the warrant, and there are still many unanswered questions, Abbott said.
“It would be nice to resolve this, but it may be a fool’s errand to put it on the warrant,” Baston said. With several questions unanswered and negative feelings from the community lingering, the warrant article may not have a good outcome, he said.