Kennebunk utility will not relicense the 600-kW Lower Mousam hydroelectric project

Kesslen Dam

The Kennebunk Light & Power District (KL&P) last week announced it intends to surrender its license for the 600-kW Lower Mousam hydroelectric project along the Mousam River in Kennebunk, Maine. The project includes three small hydroelectric facilities, all located in Kennebunk.

KL&P trustees voted to alert the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by March 2017 that they will let the licenses expire on March 31, 2022 for project’s three hydroelectric facilities that include the 300-kW Twine Mill, 150-kW Dane Perkins and 150-kW Kesslen.

The project, in aggregate, provides 1.5% of the company’s power, according to Todd Shea, KL&P general manager, and all three schemes include dams: The Kesslen Dam, built in 1954, is located in downtown Kennebunk at Route 1; and two upstream dams, the Twine Mill and Dane Perkins dams.

It is unclear whether all three dams will be removed, or have fish passages added to help fish swimming upriver to spawn.

The Mousam is the largest river system in Maine and has 15 dams, but contains no fish ladders, according to Maine Rivers, a project of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Of the 15 dams, 11 are on the Mousam River mainstem between the outlet of Mousam Lake in Shapleigh and the head-of-tide in Kennebunk, a stretch of river only 24-mi long.

According to figures released last March in a study focusing on whether to relicense the project -- the Wright-Pierce Alternatives Assessment Study -- estimates for relicensure could cost a minimum of US$8.8 million. The cost for ceasing operation and surrendering the licenses is estimated at $2.3 million, and includes the cost of removing the dams. The net cost with anticipated revenue for relicensure is estimated at $3.5 million, and the net cost for surrendering the licenses and removing the dams is estimated at $1.6 million.

Shae said KL&P will work with federal regulators, state agencies and other interested parties to determine what happens to the dams.

Local conservationists and sportsmen support the removal of the dams to allow the lower nine miles of the Mousam River to freely flow. 

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