by Dick Greenan
Believe it or not, there is actually a Dam(s) Committee! And I am not referring to the fictitious yet gripping comic-mystery novel The Dam Committee and its sequel More Dam Trouble by Belgrade's very own noted author, Earl H. Smith.
The actual Dams Committee is an interlocal agreement for the management of all of the Belgrade area dams to control those waters within our watershed. Specifically the spillway dam in the Belgrade Lakes Village, the Wings Mill Dam at the lower end of Long Pond, the dam at Salmon Lake and lastly, the Oakland dam for our neighbors on Messalonskee Lake/Snow Pond. This agreement was adopted back on October 16, 1987 by the Towns of Belgrade, Rome and Oakland, all which make available volunteer delegates.
As you can well image managing the water levels of the seven lakes in the Belgrade chain is no easy task based on the many unpredictable snow and rain events, the variations in watershed slopes, the needs of our State Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and not to mention, those of Essex Hydro, who generates local power with the Oakland dam.
To make matters worse, 1" of rain falling on Great Pond actually results in a 1.5 – 2" increase in Great Pond's water level. Due to the relative mountainous and steep slopes of the Long Pond watershed, that increase is approximately 3" for every inch of rainfall — and it may take two to three days to see that increase. In addition, with such a runoff and due to the hydrology involved of a lake with a gate open, it is not uncommon to see a 6" difference between the dam at Wings Mill and upper Long Pond, 9 miles away, with just 2" of rain! That's why your dock on upper Long Pond may be under water, yet the dam at Wings Mill registers only 1" or so above full pond.
The spring objective this year was to open the gates to allow for the inevitable spring melt and run-off without flooding our friends at Castle Island Camps, in particular! This summer, the Dams Committee wisely chose to keep all of the ponds ideally 3" above full pond in the event we encountered another dry summer, which fortunately was not the case. Full pond incidentally is when water levels are right at the top of the respective spillways without running over.
For the official fall lake drawdown, the DEP mandates that by October 31, the lakes are drawn down to their winter levels, 1.0 – 1.5' below full for Salmon Lake and 1.5 – 2.0' below full for both Long and Great Ponds. Of course this is an ideal and all dependent on the whims of Mother Nature!
So please be considerate and understanding of the hours put in by your local and, did I forget to mention, "volunteer" Dams Committee members as they try in all earnest to protect our beautiful Belgrade Lakes watershed! See you next summer!