Union River dam permit

ELLSWORTH — Black Bear Hydro Partners LLC, owner of the Ellsworth hydropower dam that forms Leonard Lake on the Union River, has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a new license to continue the dam’s hydroelectric generating operations.

The current dam license, granted in 1987, became effective on Jan. 1, 1988, and expires Dec. 31, 2017.

Black Bear filed a notice of intent and pre-application document for relicensing the dam in October 2012. In April 2013, the company filed plans for a proposed study of the dam’s environmental impacts. The proposal was revised to deal with concerns expressed by state and federal regulatory agencies, such as the Department of Marine Resources and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and conservation groups, such as the Downeast Salmon Federation.

Owners of shoreland parcels on the two lakes above the dam say that the fluctuating water levels, especially in Graham Lake, have a serious impact on their property.

“The owners of the Lake Leonard and Graham Lake dams need to clean up their act,” Ed Damm of Bar Harbor wrote in a recent email. Damm and his wife own property off North Street on the eastern shore of Graham Lake.

According to Damm, “Terns can no longer nest on their favorite spots because long-term high spring water floods their nesting area.”

High water levels after spring ice-out, Damm said, are causing rapid erosion all along the lake shore and are “even starting to undercut Route 179.”

FERC is set to issue its environmental assessment of the project in October 2017, with comments due the following month. FERC would then issue its modified terms and conditions for the license in January 2018.

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