CASCO — Work was to begin soon to remove fish from the mill pond above the Pleasant Lake Dam as contractors prepare to replace the structure beside Route 121.
“I think it’s going to be a slow start,” said Ross A. Cudlitz, the project engineer for Engineering Assistance & Design Inc. in Yarmouth. He will oversee the project for Casco and Otisfield, along with Myron Pertrovsky, design engineer of MBP Consulting.
Cudlitz said he met with the contractor, T-Buck Construction of Auburn, and other principals in the $500,000 project to review goals and procedures. Both towns are paying for the work.
The first step will be to ensure that any fish in the mill pond are safely removed to the lake on the north side of the highway.
Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist James Pellerin said he will be on site to remove any fish that have been trapped just above the dam. The plan, he said, is to build a coffer dam by Route 121 where Pleasant Lake empties out and then take the water out of the pond.
Once that is accomplished, he will use a battery-operated electronic fishing backpack unit to stun the fish for removal to the lake.
Pleasant Lake supplies water through a single pipeline to the nearby Casco hatchery where landlocked salmon, brown trout, brook trout and rainbow trout are raised.
The MDIFW owns and operates eight fish hatcheries and/or rearing stations, including the Casco Hatchery, which is currently closed, and stocks approximately 1.2 million fish each year, according to information from the department.
During the dam replacement, temporary piping will be put in place to allow water to continue downstream so fish are not impacted by lack of water.
Cudlitz said before the dam is demolished, construction access must be built to the dam. Equipment has been on site for several weeks, including sandbags for erosion control.
During excavation, the front of the dam will be cut down so the old dam can be removed and the new one built. It will be excavated a few feet to the bedrock.
In 2014, Casco and Otisfield selectmen received a report from the Maine Emergency Management Agency about leakage and structural deterioration at the spillway dam. The towns face significant fines from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection if the dam fails. Town officials, along with members of the Pleasant Lake and Parker Pond Association, have been meeting since then to develop a strategy to repair the dam.
In June, selectmen in Casco and Otisfield approved a $421,639 bid by T-Buck Construction for dam repair work. Voters in Otisfield and Casco approved bonding $250,000 from each of their towns.