DEXTER - The Wassookeag Dam is structurally and hydraulically defective and is failing, a state official told local officials last week.
Town officials are well aware the dam is in need of repair and have proposed borrowing $175,000 to do the work contingent upon adoption of the proposed 2006-07 municipal budget.
That work cannot come soon enough for Tony Fletcher of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, who examined the structure last Monday.
Fletcher said the situation developing at the Wassookeag Dam is not serious enough to evacuate downstream flood zones, but it is serious enough to make all affected downstream residents and shop owners aware of the condition.
Everyone, especially children, should keep away from the watercourse near the dam, he said Friday.
Fletcher said the "high hazard" dam should now be under constant watch.
Town officials have been and will continue to monitor the dam each day, according to Dexter Town Manager Judy Doore. She said steps have been taken to correct the problem over the past few months.
The town, Dexter Utilities District and the lake association have worked cooperatively to get a dam assessment done and to get a lake and dam management plan in place, she said Friday. The engineer who did the assessment last fall is now working on an estimate for the construction design.
Fletcher said the dam has severe leaks through an earthen dike around the concrete spillway wall and is slowly failing, a fact backed up by the increased flows and developing sinkholes.
"Of concern is that the lake cannot be drained or drawn down farther than the weir which is about 5 feet higher than the toe of the dam," Fletcher said.
He directed town officials to monitor the dam on a daily basis and to try to measure the leak by closing off the spillway temporarily.
He also has suggested that the town begin the repairs as soon as possible and plan for the lake to be drained to the toe of the dam. Ideally, the lake should be lowered about 4 feet from its present level until the dam is repaired.
Doore said the long-term plan is to do significant repair to the dam as soon as all the paperwork is completed; preferably during the low water this fall.
In the interim, the town will continue to monitor the dam each day to ensure the public safety, she said.
As a short-term solution, town officials have placed sandbags underwater to try to stem the leaks.
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