By J.W. Oliver
Construction continues at the site of the old Dresden-Richmond bridge May 5. Bridge contractor Reed & Reed has agreed to build a boat ramp at the site at no cost to the town, although the project still has some hurdles to overcome. (J.W. Oliver photo)
Dresden could have a boat ramp on the Kennebec River at the site of the old Dresden-Richmond bridge by mid-August at little or no cost.
Dresden Planning Board Chairman and state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce briefed the planning board and a small audience on the project at the end of the board’s meeting May 5.
Reed & Reed has agreed to pay for the project, Pierce said. The Woolwich contractor landed a $14.3 million contract to build the new Dresden-Richmond bridge and remove the old bridge in 2013.
The new bridge opened Dec. 5, 2014. Reed & Reed expects to complete demolition of the old bridge this summer, well ahead of schedule.
The boat ramp project has encountered some obstacles. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection wants the town to pay $20,000 to compensate the department for wetland impacts, according to Pierce.
Dresden voters will decide whether to appropriate the $20,000 from surplus with an additional $2,000 for any necessary legal fees at annual town meeting June 13. The state could still waive the fee, Pierce said.
Despite the regulatory obstacles, the DEP is working toward making the project happen. “They’ve been super helpful trying to figure this out,” Pierce said. “They’re going to work with us to get a full permit.”
The project also has support from the Blaine House. “The governor said he would sign off on the permit if it had anything to do with him,” Pierce said.
Representatives of Reed & Reed and the Maine Departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Marine Resources, and Transportation, as well as Pierce and state Sen. Linda Baker, met May 18 to discuss the project.
“It looks like it’s going to fly,” Pierce said after the meeting.
The parties are working to resolve some confusion about the ownership of the site, Pierce said. The state thought it owned the land, but it now appears that the town owns the property.
The town needs to conduct more research and “clean some paperwork up, and we’ll proceed with putting the boat ramp in, as long as we can get it done before the contractor leaves,” Pierce said.
“We’re hoping to have all the paperwork in place and the ramp done by the middle of August, so we’re on a really tight time frame,” Pierce said. “The contractor’s hoping to be done by the end of August with their piece, and if they leave, they’re not going to come back and do the boat ramp, so we really have to keep moving forward quickly.”
Dresden does not currently have public access to the Kennebec River, according to Pierce. The Dresden Fire Department has to cross the river to Richmond or utilize private property to launch its rescue boats.
“It’s really a good thing for the town to get this boat ramp,” Pierce said.
A private landowner currently allows public access to the Eastern River on Town Landing Road, according to Pierce. The Eastern River converges with the Kennebec a couple miles south of the landing.
Contrary to what the road name suggests, the town does not own the landing.
The town would likely pursue federal or state grant funds to add floats to the Kennebec River landing next year, Pierce said.