By Robert Spencer, Over the Dam
Most times, when I run into C.T. in the Flat, I smile and say, “Thanks for the water.” We both laugh. He because he thinks I am joking and me because I make him laugh. But I’m not being funny. I am grateful for water flowing into City Brook from the Keoka dam.
My gratitude began on a sunny, cold February day in 1976, when Gere and I first arrived in Waterford City and fell in love with what has become our permanent millhouse. The building was a wreck. Local kids had broken all the windows with stones. There was a smelly Model T motor on a stand in the basement, a five by six-foot box on the second floor through which the Haynes brothers had pressed apples twenty years earlier. We fell in love with it because of Keoka water.
Remnants if its foundation were attached to a thirty-foot wide by eight-foot-high split granite dam over which thundered a powerful waterfall. We couldn’t believe a couple with very limited resources could afford to own a waterfall.
During the rest of the decade, we came up to our “camp” with others who wanted to get out of Boston for a few days. If it was hot and humid, we walked into City Brook and climbed behind the cascade. We didn’t know where the water came from but were grateful to receive it.
We explored up and down the brook, finding the remains of nine 19th century industrial sites lining its banks down to Bear Pond from its dam. During the fall and winter, when the lake level was kept low, water flushed through the open gate, sometimes splashing over the spillway. Our falls thundered. In summer the flow was modest, a trickle through the one-inch gate opening. Even then enough water was released to fill a small pond and gently cascade over our dam.
One May weekend in the late 1980s I stood with a guest over breakfast coffee, looking out a window on the falls. Suddenly a three-by-four-foot stone slipped from its place in the dam structure and floated downstream. Our quarter-acre pond emptied like a bathtub when the stopper is pulled. Dying fish flipped on the pond’s muddy bottom. The breached dam was unable to hold water during the summer for many years.
In late October, when the lake level was lowered to winter’s setting, the pond would fill and the falls return. It was then I began to appreciate the water’s source. Following each spring’s freshet, when water would lap the back of our foundation, the flow would be cut. We enjoyed the peace and quiet but prayed for a noisy cascade. That was when I began to thank C.T. and ask for more flow.
In time, our old wooden water gate deteriorated, and I removed it to preserve its metal pieces. The pond no longer filled more than half-way. What the lake continued to send down was appreciated, but we had to do something to restore the traditional falls.
In October 2019 we hired Bancroft Co. of Paris to repair the dam as permitted by Maine’s DEP, requiring the work site be dewatered. I asked KLA to close their dam completely. For two weeks the only water onsite was spring fed. Two four-inch pipes conveyed that small flow downstream. The morning the crew finished installing a new wooden gate the Keoka dam was reset at the usual seasonal flow. Within twenty-four hours the pond filled and the falls returned. That night my heart was filled with gratitude.
Thanks for the water.