Topsham postpones acting on ban near hydro plant

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TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen on March 1 took no action on a proposed ordinance to prohibit activity in the Androscoggin River on both sides of a power plant.

The panel unanimously voted to have Town Manager Rich Roedner “begin conversations” with Brunswick Town Manager John Eldridge concerning a water safety ordinance on part of the river.

The board previously discussed the matter Feb. 15, after which Roedner planned to talk with agencies, including the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, to settle questions about who has jurisdiction on that section of the river – specifically, whether the town and Brunswick can instate such a ban.

Brookfield Renewable – owner of the Brunswick Hydroelectric Facility on the Androscoggin – has asked the towns to consider creating a water safety zone that would prohibit use of the river from the downstream side of the Frank J. Wood Bridge (the “Green Bridge”), to the upstream side of the Maine Department of Transportation’s railroad bridge (the “Black Bridge”).

Brookfield explained in a January memo to the Board of Selectmen that the area around its plant “is widely used for recreational activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing by community members. While many areas of the river are safe for such recreational activities, there are portions upstream and downstream of the hydroelectric facility that pose public safety risks.”

Roedner said Tuesday that IF&W informed him that municipalities do not have jurisdiction over boating and fishing regulations on public waters. IF&W could re-evaluate the matter in order to change the rules, he added.

The matter has consequently been tabled “until we can do additional research, and talk to Brunswick about the issues of swimming and whether there’s anything else we can do,” Roedner said.

Swimming is not a regulated activity, unlike boating and fishing, he noted.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A proposed safety zone around the Brunswick Hydroelectric Facility on the Androscoggin River would run from the upstream side of the Maine Department of Transportation’s railroad bridge (southwest of the Swinging Bridge), to the downstream side of the Frank J. Wood Bridge (southwest of Sea Dog Brewing Co.).

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.