This week, Sappi Fine Paper is working on the hydro dam at Little Falls on the Presumpscot River. Living along the Little Falls impoundment, we received a postcard in the mail a couple of weeks ago, notifying us of the fact that Sappi would need to draw the water down to a level sufficiently low to perform routine dam maintenance. They do this every year and it’s always rather exciting for me, because I get to explore the tree roots, rocks and sandy banks that are usually submerged in the artificially high impoundment.
Yesterday, I put on my Wellies and climbed down to the exposed bank to have a look around. The water level seemed to be about where I imagine it would if there weren’t a dam downstream. (What a pipe dream.) The natural slope of the bank and the placement of the trees tell the story about how it would look in its natural state. Currently, the banks are at constant risk of erosion from lapping water undercutting them. The big trees are giving way one by one in this unstable situation. In our 26 years here, we’ve seen three large trees fall along that bank. Two right into the water (one of which got caught up in the Little Falls Dam) and one big oak fell back onto our property, providing us with some firewood and a handy riverside trunk for sitting.
It’s stressful to witness the clouding, silting and erosion caused by the wake every time our downstream neighbors make one of their frequent trips in their fast motorboat. Today, I was astonished to hear the boat racing upstream even with the water level lowered. My heart sinks a little every time they roar past and the water slaps the riverbanks. I imagine the two blue herons I saw yesterday feel the same.