New Brunswick

'It's unthinkable': Residents worry over future of Forest City dam

Future still unclear for Forest City dam and homeowners in the area expressed their concern at an annual meeting on Tuesday.

Half the dam is in Canada, the other half in the States, but its future is still uncertain

Environmental, navigation, flood control, recreation, shoreline owner protection and pollution control are just some of the reasons why residents want to keep the Forest City dam in place. (CBC)

The future is still unclear for the Forest City dam and homeowners in the area expressed their concern at an annual meeting on Tuesday night. 

More than 60 people attended the public meeting in McAdam, hosted by the International Joint Commission concerning the dam on Tuesday night.

The future of the structure, which straddles the international border at Forest City on the upper St. Croix River, was top of mind for everyone in attendance. 

"Many people that are here are worried about what will happen," said Bill Appleby, the Canadian co-chair of the IJC International St. Croix River Board. "We too have been following this closely."

Recent efforts by the dam's owner, Woodland Pulp, to sell the structure leave those who own summer homes along the dam's international head pond concerned about what will happen to their properties if the structure's torn down or modified.

The dam has been in place since 1840, raising the water level of East Grand Lake, North Lake and a connecting stretch known as 'The Thoroughfare' by as much as six feet, or almost two metres.

"Water will go down about six feet if this dam is removed," said David Townsend, president of the Chiputneticook Lakes International Conservancy and owns a cottage on East Grand Lake where the dam sits.

"It's a very small dam in the middle of nowhere, but it has enormous impact for shoreline owners, for fish spawning, the cold-water fish. It's actually a very actively controlled dam."  

Future still unclear

The State of Maine has expressed interest in purchasing the American portion of the dam, but that prospect leaves residents uneasy.

"I guess people's attitude in the area is that it's unthinkable," said Townsend, who spoke to the crowd. "It's such a driver in terms of the local economy and the environment." 

In November, Woodland Pulp, which is owned by a Hong Kong-based holding company, applied to surrender the licence, remove the gates to the dam, and allow the water to drain to natural levels.

Due to the dam's positioning along the St. Croix River, any changes to the Canadian side of the structure, would have to go through the International Joint Commission, but only after its ownership issues and jurisdiction over the structure are resolved. 

"It's not something that could or would happen tomorrow," said Townsend. "So we're going to continue our efforts to save the dam." 

About the Author

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

With files from Connell Smith

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