The Mousam and Kennebunk Rivers Alliance (MKRA) was formed in 2008 by local citizens concerned with the state of our local rivers. We adopted a mission to improve the ecological health of the Mousam and Kennebunk River watersheds – from the headwaters to the ocean – for birds, fish, wildlife, and people.
The MKRA supports the removal of the three dams that KLPD owns and operates on the Mousam River. Keeping the dams is ultimately bad for the Mousam River and for local rate-payers/tax-payers.
The Economics of our Dams is Dismal
KLPD’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously in June 2016 not to seek a new federal operating license for the 3 dams they own on the Mousam River in Kennebunk. They took this vote after nearly 5 years of study and assessment involving numerous technical experts. KLPD recognized that their dams and hydropower generating equipment are old and in relatively poor condition, and that extensive repairs and rehabilitation work are needed to bring the dams up to modern standards.
KLPD learned that it would take a projected $16.9 million to get a new license for the dams, build fish ways, provide recreational amenities, and do many of the other things required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for federally-licensed hydropower project. Given that the power from the dams accounts for less than 1.5% of all power used within the District, and that the power can be replaced significantly cheaper through other means, the Trustees made the financially responsible decision not to seek a new license.
The $16.9 million cost of keeping and updating the dams is dramatically higher than the cost of dam removal estimated at $2.5 million. The value of the hydropower that could be generated over a 40 year license was projected at $8.6 million, about half of the $16.9 million projected cost
If KLPD were to keep the dams, the projected future cost to generate electricity from them would be $0.25/kWh, which would be the highest rate for electricity on Maine’s mainland. The current cost of power that KLPD purchases off the New England grid is about $0.09/kWh and the estimated cost of power from the solar projects that KLPD is exploring is also about $0.09/kWh.
Dam removal will not be an environmental catastrophe
The health of the Mousam River ecosystem has been substantially harmed by dams and their impoundments.
Dams have transformed a natural river system that existed for millennia into an unnatural, less resilient, and less healthy series of artificial impoundments. The basic physical, chemical, and biological processes of the river have been altered. Neither the native biological communities that reside in rivers nor those that reside in lakes are well adapted for these conditions.
Everything that lives in the impoundment or in adjacent riparian areas – from the plants and aquatic insect communities at the bottom of the food chain to the birds of prey and fur-bearing mammals at the top – reflect these impaired conditions. The result is a more simple, less species rich environment. Add in that the dams and impoundments negatively impact water quality by lowering oxygen levels, increasing temperature, and completely disrupting natural sediment and nutrient transfer processes, and you have a broken ecosystem that was once seamlessly connected headwater streams with the ocean.
Dam removal will lead to improvements in water quality, revitalized runs of several sea-run fish species – alewives, blueback herring, American shad, and American eel – and restoration of dozens of acres of high-quality wildlife habitat along the river.
Dam removal will also restore natural physical processes – the movement of nutrients, sediment, and wood – that create complex in-water habitat, drive productivity, and sustain beaches and wetlands.
Virtually all of the species that live in the Mousam and its adjacent riparian areas will benefit from restoring the natural river environment and the runs of sea-run fish that are currently blocked by the Kesslen Dam. Herons, eagles, osprey, mink, otter, brook trout and many other species will prosper and their populations will grow, not disappear.
The resurgence of river herring will also benefit all of the whales, seals, porpoises, sharks, sea birds, cod, haddock, tuna and all the other species in the Gulf of Maine that feed on them.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalize the Mousam River – for fish, birds, wildlife, and people! Please support KLPD as we move forward and let the Mousam River run free, from Old Falls to the sea!
The Mousam will become free-flowing and restore to it's natural state
Dam removal will restore the Mousam to its natural, free-flowing condition complete with rapids, riffles and runs, small falls, sandy beaches and large pools. Some sections of the river will be shallow and faster moving, others will be deeper and slower moving. Some of the restored sections of the river will be very similar to those areas that are currently free-flowing, like the stretch below the Kesslen Dam in downtown Kennebunk and the small stretches below the Old Falls Dam (below left) and the Twine Mill Dam (below right).
The photo above was taken from below Oak Bluff Drive in November 2015 with the Kesslen impoundment completely drawn-down. The river from Twine Mill to Kesslen Dam was able to paddled via kayak without interruption. Water depths ranged from about 15 inches to more than 4 feet.
Water flows will change from season to season and year to year. High spring and autumn flows will create new opportunities for white-water paddling. It is also true that in summer and other low flow periods it will not be possible to paddle entire sections of the river as is currently the case. Some stretches will maintain enough depth for paddling and swimming, and with improved water quality and clarity, the river will be a better and safer place to swim, especially with newly exposed sand beaches and pools. Removing the Kesslen Dam will also significantly reduce upstream flooding risk by lowering the 100-year flood level by several feet in low-laying neighborhoods like Intervale.
Following dam removal, river banks quickly revegetate with native grasses and plants. If desired, native tree species can also be placed in key viewing areas along the river to enhance scenic vistas.
It’s time to recover a natural treasure right in the backyard of downtown Kennebunk.
The Mousam is home to ﬁsh, birds and vital
nutrients that ﬂow to the Gulf of Maine.
It’s a place of beauty to paddle, walk, ﬁsh or justsit and watch the river ﬂow the way it did 300
years ago...and can once again, with your
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