by Mary Grow
China TIF (Tax Increment Finance) Committee members heard a presentation on the China Lake alewife restoration project, or ARI (Alewife Restoration Initiative), at their Sept. 24 meeting, preliminary to an application for financial assistance expected at their Oct. 22 meeting.
Landis Hudson, of Maine Rivers, Frank Richards, president of the Webber Pond Association, and Nate Gray, of the state Department of Marine Resources, credited alewives for better water quality in area lakes, including Three Mile and Webber ponds and China Lake. The small fish have been trucked into China Lake in recent years; ARI is clearing obstacles in Outlet Stream so they can swim into the lake from the Sebasticook River.
Hudson said of six dams in the stream, one (Masse in East Vassalboro) has been removed completely; Lombard Dam, close to the intersection of Lombard Dam Road and Route 32 between East and North Vassalboro, is almost demolished; Outlet Dam in East Vassalboro and Box Mills and Ladd dams in North Vassalboro will have fishways installed; and the fate of the Morneau dam, between the Masse and Lombard dams, remains to be decided.
Creating fishways will be more expensive, and probably less controversial, than removing dams, Hudson said. The project has received state and federal grant money and $20,000 from China TIF funds approved at the March 2017 town business meeting.
All three proponents talked of the economic advantages of cleaning up China Lake, like higher taxes on lakefront property and a better fishery, perhaps including restoration of the salmon and trout that flourished before an overload of phosphorus led to a lack of oxygen in colder bottom water.
TIF Committee Chairman Frank Soares told Hudson the ARI application will be the first to be received for this year’s TIF funds. He anticipates a request for money for trail development from the China Four Seasons Club (which, he said, he no longer heads; Tom Rumpf is the new president).
In other business Sept. 24, Soares, committee member Tom Michaud and Town Manager Dennis Heath reported on the causeway project at the head of China Lake’s east basin. Replacing the old bridge with a higher cement culvert will require closing Causeway Street, beginning Sept. 27; conspicuous signs announcing the pending closure are posted at both ends of the street.
Anyone wanting to visit the project must sign in at the town office and must wear a safety helmet and abide by all other safety rules, Heath and Soares said. To help residents follow the work without getting in the way, Heath intends to post photos on the China website.
After the bridge is replaced, Michaud said the second phase of the project requires an initial inspection and recommendations from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Committee members have discussed new structures at the head of the lake to make fishing easier, sidewalks and perhaps a four-wheeler trail connecting to the new bridge and other not-yet-fleshed-out ideas. Until state regulators tell the town what can and cannot be done, the committee cannot make firm plans.
Heath will try to get a DEP staffer to look at the area soon.