A Planning Perspective

Shoreline Zoning

Water Quality


River Access Sites


The concept that land use planning can affect water quality was legally recognized in 1971, with the adoption of mandatory shoreland zoning. This law, enacted by Maine's 105th Legislature, requires that all cities and towns adopt shoreland zoning controls for the land area within 250 feet of tidal water, lakes, and ponds in excess of 10 acres. Rivers, from the point at which they drain a watershed of 25 square miles or more, are also covered by mandatory shoreland zoning. The 1971 law required all municipalities to adopt zoning and subdivision controls in shoreland areas by 1974. The state reserved the right to apply zones in cases where the municipality failed to do so.

In 1983, the state's River Bill made more clear legislative intent to protect rivers deemed "outstanding." Development along major segments of the lower Kennebec became more restrictive as a result of its designation as an outstanding river. Specifically any building or structure constructed within the shoreland area was required to have a combined frontage and setback of 500 feet. Areas zoned general development were excluded from this requirement.

A quick visual analysis of shoreland zoning along the lower Kennebec, from Augusta to Popham Beach, shows the diverse response of Kennebec communities. Although this river segment is considered "outstanding," urban areas such as Augusta, Hallowell, Gardiner, Richmond and Bath have all adopted the more intensive general development zone. Taken together, approximately 18 miles of the lower Kennebec's western shore are zoned "general development," and thus excluded from the more restrictive setback requirement formed in the River Bill. In sum, the general development zone accounts for approximately one-third to one-quarter of all zoning along the lower end of the river, most of it on the western banks.

The remaining segments of the lower Kennebec are zoned either limited residential or resource protection. Resource protection, the most restrictive of all three shoreland zones, is found largely in Georgetown, from Back River to Stage Island (at the mouth of the river) and in Bowdoinham, from Merrymeeting Bay to Richmond. Dresden, Chelsea, and Pittston also have designated considerable amounts of shoreland as resource protection.

State efforts to preserve water resources have struck some residents as an infringement of local land-use controls. However, the fairly loose monitoring of shoreland zoning by municipalities is a strong cause of concern for others. The 1985 ASSESSMENT OF SHORELAND ZONING ADMINISTRATION AND ENFORCEMENT, prepared by the State Planning Office, cites weak municipal zoning enforcement as a problem for a number of lower Kennebec communities.

Indeed, present water quality in the Kennebec is primarily the result of economic and technological changes rather than zoning efforts. Investments made on the federal, state and municipal levels to construct sewerage treatment plants and the demise of the state's poultry, leather, and textile industries have done much to reduce pollutants entering the river.

Zoning and other land-use controls will be important as a means of maintaining present water quality standards and ensuring preservation of the river's natural resources. These resources can be degraded by many factors but there are three major threats to water quality and fish and animal habitat that are important from a land-use planning perspective: (1) increased population pressure (largely residential) along the river banks; (2) increased recreational use of the Kennebec with associated overboard garbage, gasoline pollution, turbidity and disturbance of habitat; (3) continued high rates of zoning violations by some businesses, residents, and municipalities.


Population Pressure:

The Maine State Planning Office projects an 8 to 12 percent increase in state population by the year 1990, an increase of about 135,000 persons from the 1980 census count. The state's southern tier is projected to absorb just over 50 percent of this increase. Most of the Kennebec, from Augusta to Popham Beach, is included in the southern tier. The Augusta area, considered just outside southern Maine, is also expected to experience a relatively sizable increase in population.

There are two reasons for this: First, Augusta is the state capital and state government is expected to expand through 1990. Second, the I-95 corridor has become a growth pole of its own, as the transportation link for the state and Augusta lives directly on I-95.

Depending on various economic factors, demand for housing is expected to grow. Population increases and immigration will increase the need for new housing. There are still large tracts of land along the Kennebec suitable for housing development. It can be anticipated this acreage will be sold and developed during the next decade. Residential construction may consist more of individual houses than large, tract subdivisions. In some ways, piecemeal development can be more problematical as it does not require subdivision approval, and requires less planning board involvement.

According to the State Planning Office, much of the river shorefront is "already developed, occupied by railroad rights of way, or too steep to allow building." This statement deserves reconsideration when development near the river, but outside the shoreland zone, is taken into account. As the river is recognized as an attractive resource, acreage near it has become more desirable. There are large areas of undeveloped land near the river banks that offer prime residential acreage. As coastal land continues to increase in value, developers and home buyers in the southern end of the state may turn to the Kennebec as a source of less expensive residential real estate.

In addition to housing for residents, pressure will be placed on the river by those who wish to convert seasonal housing to year-round homes. Seasonal housing on the Kennebec is not nearly as abundant as it is on the area's lake fronts, but conversions will be an added burden to already understaffed local planning boards. New seasonal housing will also be constructed as the Kennebec becomes more popular as a recreational resource.


Recreational Use of the Kennebec*:

During the last 10 years fishing has gained in popularity on the Kennebec. Atlantic salmon fishing is not significant as yet, but fishing for other anadromous species has become heavy, particularly in the Augusta-Gardiner area. Winter smelt fishing on the river, and in the tributaries surrounding Merrymeeting Bay, is the highest in the state boasting more than 1,000 camps. Below Bath, striper fishing is intense.

Boating activity has also grown with the establishment of DOC/municipal boat landings in Augusta, Hallowell, Gardiner, Richmond and Bath. As many as 150 boats will pass a given point between Augusta and Bath on a summer weekend day.

Hunting and trapping occur primarily in the Merrymeeting Bay area. Because of the large numbers of Canada geese, ducks and other birds, the bay is the premier waterfowling region in the state.

Other recreational activities along the Kennebec include tours of historic sites, picnicking, camping, and the winter activity of automobile racing on the frozen river.

Potential for user-conflict on the Kennebec is increasing. There have been claims that commercial fishing practices cause safety hazards for recreational boaters. Wildlife enthusiasts do not welcome the increased motorized traffic in Merrymeeting Bay. There has long been pressure for Swan Island to be more open to the public. If recreational and commercial opportunities on the Kennebec are to continue to increase, mechanisms for conflict resolution must be found.

*This section from: Maine Rivers Access and Easement Plan, prepared by Joe Hardy, consultant for the Bureau of Parks & Recreation, January 1985.



The 1985 SURVEY OF SHORELAND ZONING ADMINISTRATION AND ENFORCEMENT prepared by the State Planning Office lists timber harvesting, clearing, and filling and building without a permit as the most common forms of shoreland zoning violations. Fully 80-90 percent of all towns on the lower Kennebec are cited as having at least "minor development problems" with shoreland zoning. The primary cause of violations, in almost every community, is the lack of public awareness. Additional contributors to weak administration are: high turn-over rates of planning boards and code enforcement officers; lack of support for the actions of planning boards and code enforcement officers (CEO's); resentment of state-mandated regulations; and informal administrative procedures, including inadequate record keeping, incomplete application forms, and a lack of written decisions based on findings by boards.

To reduce violations, the State Planning Office recommends a program of public education, technical assistance to planning boards and CEO's, and a regional code enforcement program. Another possibility is a program for land owners who volunteer as "code enforcement officers." Land owners have a vested interest in protecting their own property and water quality levels. They are also the only people with daily contacts in shoreland areas. Communities with volunteer programs often believe they have found a possible solution to high levels of shoreland violations. The volunteers provide the "eyes and ears" for local officials who work part-time, and cannot cover enough territory by themselves to adequately enforce the law.

Neither industrial pollution or violations by businesses were cited by the State Planning Office study as a major source of water quality degradation on the Kennebec. While this is certainly good news, it does not give cause to relax enforcement of current regulations. There are a number of old industrial buildings located on the river which could be reactivated. There is also a considerable amount of acreage zoned for general development use. These two factors should be kept in mind with regard to the maintenance of current water quality standards.


Unfinished Business:

The above topics have not covered all river-associated planning and land-use issues. What happens on the land near the Kennebec's banks will continue to exert a major influence on its water quality. The following are other factors that may impact habitat and water quality. Also included is a list of information and activities to better control land-use impacts on water bodies.


Additional Impacts:

Planning boards are generally lenient about allowing exceptions in resource protection and limited residential zones. Planning boards are hesitant about denying a special exception. When exceptions are allowed, most boards attached few, if any, conditions.


Additional Information Needed:

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The Kennebec River has been an important factor in the growth of the central Maine area beginning with its early settlement in the 1700's. As cultural and industrial activities intensified, the river became increasingly affected until by the 20th century pollution effects in the lower river were chronic and acute leading to massive fish kills and reported outbreaks of waterborne diseases from its use as a water supply. While upstream communities and industries, particularly pulp and paper, discharged their wastes untreated in large quantities, downstream communities essentially turned their noses away from the river and water based industries such as fishing and the ice industry disappeared.

A realization of the value of water resources developed in the 1960's and evolved into the environmental management policies of the 1970's. October 1, 1976, became the statutory goal for all industries and municipalities to provide treatment of their wastes in Maine. While all treatment facilities were not completed by this date, most industries and many municipalities in the Kennebec watershed did attain the goal and quality of the river water improved remarkably. In subsequent years, additional treatment has been added so that virtually all waste water discharges in the watershed are presently treated.

The Maine Legislature classified the state's water according to several levels as management goals. The Kennebec River has been classified as Class C which designates it as suitable for all uses except water contact recreation and water supplies. Specific standards require a minimum of five (5) parts per million oxygen and maximum of 1000 fecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters of water.

Since 1979 the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has kept a regular record for these parameters at two sites on the lower Kennebec, the Augusta dam and South Gardiner. Data is separated into three groups: 1974-75 before much treatment, 1976-78 when many facilities were first coming into operation and 1979-82 after most treatment was in place and operating. It is quite apparent from the data that prior to 1976 the river had a severe dissolved oxygen problem during the warm weather months and at times was near total depletion. During 1976-78 considerable improvement was found and the river attained the 5ppm minimum most of the time. From 197982 dissolved oxygen was very good and attained the requirements of Class B1 (7ppm oxygen and 75% oxygen saturation, whichever is greater) on all dates measured except one. Following these improvements in the water, fish and other organisms returned to the river. Improvement in bacteria concentrations is not as clear for several reasons but the trend toward improvement is evident. There has been a general decline in mean numbers at the Augusta dam, however some tests still exceed the daily maximum. At South Gardiner results are variable, however the Gardiner and Augusta treatment facilities have not come into operation until recently and there are still some storm sewers that overflow directly to the river following heavy rains.

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Waterville: Fort Halifax day use and picnic area. Suitable for canoe and small boat launch.

Sidney: State assisted boat launch erected winter of 1984; only boat access for river from Waterville to Augusta; also developing park area.


Augusta Dam: Road behind Bates Mill provides access to area

above Augusta dam.

Augusta: East side park and boat launch.

Hallowell: Boat launch and park area.

Chelsea: Boat launch and park area.

Gardiner: Boat launch and park area.

Randolph: Clough Marina.

Richmond: Boat access and park; also access to Swan Island.

Bowdoinham: Fish and Game Management lands.

Bath: Boat launch and large park area.

Phippsburg: Rough boat launch held in private hands.

Popham: Limited small boat access; large public beach

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Mandatory shoreland zoning was enacted by Maine's 105th Legislature in 1971. The need for such planning was shown by the degradation of water quality in several Maine lakes as a result of intensive shoreland development (residential and agricultural).

The shoreland zoning law requires all municipalities to adopt shoreland zoning controls for the land area within 250 feet of tidal water, lakes and ponds in excess of 10 acres. Rivers, from the point at which they drain a watershed of 25 square miles or more, are required to have shoreland zoning controls identical to those for lakes.

The 1971 law required all municipalities to adopt shoreland zoning controls by 1974. Each municipality was also required to implement the subdivision law for its whole area, including the shoreland zone, by 1974.

If a community failed to enact a shoreland zoning ordinance at least as stringent as the "minimum shoreland zoning ordinance" published by the state, the state required the municipality to enforce that ordinance with a shoreland zoning map conforming to state guidelines.

The Maine Rivers Bill, enacted in 1983, designated the lower Kennebec River, from Thorns Head Narrows in North Bath to the Edwards Dam in Augusta, excluding Perkins Township, as an outstanding river segment. For this reason, the state subdivision law was amended to "require principal structures to have a combined lot shore frontage and setback from the normal high water mark of 500 feet." This requirement does not apply to any commercial, industrial, mixed or compact residential area of 10 or more acres with an existing density of at least one principal structure per 2 acres. The 500 foot rule is not part of the shoreland zoning ordinance and does not apply to division of a parcel of land which is not classified as a subdivision by Title 30, 4956, 1.

Of the three zoning districts defined by the state, general development is the least restrictive. It permits residential dwelling units and commercial, industrial and public structures, all with a planning board permit. There is no minimum setback required from the high water mark, but a minimum frontage of 100 feet per dwelling is required.

State guidelines indicate that the areas having patterns of intensive residential, recreational, commercial or industrial uses are appropriately zoned in the general purpose district.

From Augusta to the sea, Augusta, Hallowell, Gardiner, Randolph, Richmond and Bath are zoned general development. This includes about 13 miles on the western bank and about 2 miles on the eastern bank. This comprises about 20% of the total shoreland, excluding islands.

The limited residential-recreational district permits residential dwelling units with permission from the planning board. No other types of principal structures are permitted. Both dwelling and accessory structures (such as garages) are required to have a minimum setback of 75 feet from the high water mark. Roughly 40% of the shoreland from Augusta to the sea is limited residential. However, most of the land in limited residential is not served by sewers. Much of the land is too steep, too close to bedrock or too impervious (on solid clay) to pass a soils test. That means a plumbing permit for a septic system cannot be issued, which means you cannot build on the land. Perhaps 20% of the shoreland in limited residential will pass a soils test. The most restrictive district, resource protection, permits no building within 250 feet of the high water mark except for "small, non-residential facilities for educational, scientific or nature interpretation purposes." These facilities require a planning board permit and must be at least 75 feet from the high water mark.

There is a resource protection district in Georgetown from Back River to the mouth of the Kennebec and in Bowdoinham from Merrymeeting Bay to Richmond. State guidelines require all shoreland in the 100-year flood plain to be designated resources protection. For that reason about four miles in Pittston and several miles in Dresden are in resource protection. Chelsea has steeply sloping, highly erodible soil in resource protection. Altogether, about 40 percent of the shoreland is either in resource protection or should be by state guidelines. This is mandatory open space. Nothing but a small observation shelter can be built within 250 feet of the water. A large percentage of this land is covered with trees of small commercial value such as poplar, swamp maple and willow.

Summarizing shoreland zoning in this area, about 20 miles of general purpose district is already developed and has sewers, water lines and roads. There also is a railroad running along the river. Much of the land is already divided into small lots. Significant new construction would involve tearing down existing buildings.

An additional 20 miles is available for, or is already used for, dwellings. Most of this is unsewered and much is without utility lines and public roads. Where there are no sewers the state plumbing code, as well as shoreland zoning frontage requirements, discourage multi-family dwellings. Some towns, one of them is Pittston, have a two acre minimum lot size. Pittston also has a 150-foot shore frontage required per dwelling unit. Due to such restrictions, plus the 500 foot rule, the per unit cost of a housing development in the limited residential district is costly. However, a property owner can sell his land piecemeal without being subject to the subdivision law. He only has to avoid selling three or more parcels in a five year period. The following are not counted in the number of parcels: land conveyed to a child or parent of the seller; land sold to an adjoining landowner; land containing 40 acres or more; or land which the seller retains with a house where he has lived for at least five years. In addition, the landowner can create a small lot by selling part of his house after the house is completed.


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GEOLOGY: Waterville to Popham


The Kennebec River flows southward from Waterville to the sea through a valley gouged out of hard rock. The rock was formed many, many millions of years ago. It formed far below the surface of the earth. Later a process called mountain building thrust up the earth's surface into ridges and mountains. The elevated, sloping surfaces were slowly eroded by water and weather over a very long period. Flowing waters carried away the pebbles and sand which had been broken off from the rock surface. The waters washed into lakes and seas. After this process had continued for millions of years, the bedrock which we can see exposed near the river became the top layer of the earth's crust.


Rock Types

Much of the bedrock in the lower Kennebec Valley is granite, which is classified as an igneous rock. That means that the solid rock was formed by cooling of liquid rock. Liquid rock is called magma. It is a mixture of minerals. Under the solid crust of the earth there is a layer of magma. Sometimes masses of magma are forced into the crust. Actually the molten lava which erupts from a volcano is magma which has been forced right through the earth's surface. It is possible for "hot spots" to develop within the earth's crust so that the rock is melted into magma. However formed, the magma will eventually cool to the same temperature as the matter surrounding it. During cooling, molecules of the same mineral are attracted to each other and form a crystal. If the magma cools fairly fast, the crystals are small. With slower cooling, the crystal size increases; that is, the rock will be coarser grained.

Granite consists of quartz with one or more varieties of feldspar and lesser amounts of other minerals, such as micas. The grain size varies. The famous Hallowell granite is rather fine grained and light gray. It was used to build important structures throughout the eastern part of the United States. Granite similar to that which was quarried in Hallowell is found in Augusta, Gardiner, Chelsea and Pittston.

Where magma cooled very slowly large crystals formed. Minerals present in minor amounts in the magma became concentrated. Hence large crystals of gems such as colored tourmaline may have formed. A pegmatite is a type of rock formed by slow cooling of a magma which would have become granite if it had cooled faster. Large pegmatites exist along the lower Kennebec River. In Topsham, Arrowsic and Georgetown they were mined for feldspar and mica. Ornamental minerals such as rose quartz, beryl and tourmaline have been found in some of the quarries there.

The other class of rocks found along the lower Kennebec River is metamorphic. These rocks were made from either igneous or sedimentary rocks by great heat and pressure. Sedimentary rocks were formed by the cementing together of deposited mineral particles such as sand. Sedimentary rocks are not found in this part of Maine because the great heat and pressure during the mountain building periods metamorphosed or melted all the sedimentary rocks here. It is believed that two tectonic plates collided near Maine and that caused the mountain building. (These large plates move around over the interior of the earth although geologists have not yet figured out why.)

Slate is found in the Waterville area. It is the metamorphic form of shale. Shale is a sedimentary rock formed from clay and silt which were deposited under water. This slate is called blue stone from its blue-gray color. It is quarried in Sidney and used as building stone and crushed rock.

A metamorphic rock which outcrops in the northwest part of Pittston was formed from an impure kind of sandstone containing volcanic ash. The volcanic ash gives it a dark gray or greenish color and a tendency to split in parallel layers just as slate does. Layered metamorphic rocks in this region show evidence that tremendous forces have distorted them and tilted the layers as much as ninety degrees.


Ice Age

The Kennebec River is bordered by hills and ridges. Usually the land slopes steeply from the hilltops to the beginning of the one hundred year flood plain. The official flood hazard maps produced for the federal government establish an arbitrary level for the one hundred year flood plain. This is set at twenty-five feet above mean low water level in Pittston. Actually the flood of 1936 did not go that high. In fact, the waters of the lower Kennebec River have not flooded the one hundred year flood plain in the two hundred and fifty years that white men have observed the level of the river's waters. The flood plain is often narrow but is broad in Dresden and Woolwich. The beach is generally narrow but there are large tidal marshes and mud flats in Merrymeeting Bay. The difference between high tide and low tide is about 5 feet in Augusta and 8 feet in Bath.

Deposits of silty clay over the bedrock are common up to a height of 200 feet above the level of the river. Some deposits are 60 feet thick. The clay is light bluish gray. It is also called marine clay. The Indians used this clay to make pots. The white men used it to make bricks. This clay was formed from very fine particles of rock which are called silt. This silt was deposited in the ocean about 30 million years ago.

At that time the Kennebec Valley to far above Waterville was a broad bay of the Atlantic Ocean. There was also a sheet of ice a mile thick over the whole of Maine. The weight of the ice made the land sink. By eleven thousand years ago the ice had melted.

At that time the lower Kennebec River was broader than it is now, for the water level was about 100 feet higher than at present. The land slowly rose. It has been about the same level above the water for the last four thousand years. Recently the land has been sinking. This action endangers the sandy beaches at the mouth of the Kennebec.

Before the ice sheet was completely melted, huge quantities of gravel, cobbles and sand were deposited in the lower Kennebec Valley. The large volumes of water flowing from the melting ice deposited these materials in different ways. Large lakes were formed behind ice dams. The streams flowing into the lake deposited sand and gravel in layers. Coarser particles were carried in the summertime because the streams flowed faster. Water flowing along the old Kennebec River bed also transported rock fragments produced by glacial action. The fragments were rounded by action against each other. They were dropped in the river bed wherever the speed of the water decreased. That is how the gravel deposits along the river were formed. The river was then much deeper and wider than it is now. Then the gravel beds were under water.

All the rounded rocks in gravel pits were transported by water. The ice sheet also transported quantities of rocks and dirt which had been frozen in the ice. Where rocks were frozen to the bottom of the ice sheet, they acted like chisels. They sheared whole tops off hills. An example is the large level top of Cold Spring Hill in Pittston. The rocks broken off by the ice were irregular in shape, not rounded. The ice sheet did not roll rocks along. It moved very, very slowly as snow falling on the sheet very slowly increased the thickness of the ice.

Later the average air temperature in North America increased. Then snow no longer built up on the ice sheet. Each year the temperature grew warm enough to melt the old ice. That started what is sometimes called the retreat of the ice sheet. Of course, the ice did not move, it just melted away. The ice did not melt uniformly back from the southern edge. Lakes formed far back from the edge behind ice dams. There were rivers of ice water running through and under the ice. When the ice melted, it dropped all the rocks, rock fragments, sand and fine rock flour that had been frozen into the ice. This material, except for the larger rocks, is called glacial till. The till forms a thin layer over the bedrock on the upper part of the hills. The soil is poor there since only a thin coat of organic matter has formed in these exposed situations. The till is often thicker on the flanks of the hills. The under layer of till was often packed down into hardpan, resulting in poor drainage.

During floods, rich alluvial soil was deposited on the flood plain. Due to the lowering of the water level, large level fields once in the flood plain are now above it. The rich deep soil is excellent for agriculture. Such fields are found in Dresden, South Pittston and Bowdoinham.


Man's Changes

In early days the hills were used for pasture and orchards. The clay soils were used for growing hay and grain. The intervale (flood plain next to the river) and flat fields next to the intervale were excellent for vegetables and root crops.

The surface of the ground was thickly strewn with rocks left by the ice sheet. The first white settlers cleared off the surface rocks and made stone walls. The really big rocks are still sitting where the ice dropped them eleven thousand years ago.

Since the soil is thin over bedrock or hardpan, the rain does not sink into the ground. There are small swamps, even high on the hills. Many small brooks run down through deep gullies to the river. Larger streams drain swamps or ponds. The mouth of each stream was an excellent place for Indians to catch fish. Indians preferred to live on the river bank just south of the stream. Indians lived at such a spot where Nehumkeag Stream flows into the Kennebec River for over two thousand years. The evidence is the pieces of pottery which they left there.

Many of the old stone walls remain. The walls stop well back from the river bank because the stones were recycled into piers and landings. Remnants of many piers can be observed while walking on the river ice at low tide. The rows of square piers in the river were used to anchor log booms. Piers were usually made of round logs or squared timbers forming cribbing. The cribbing was filled with rocks. As the wood rotted away the piers became piles of rocks.

Where the hills are close to the river bank, stones generally line the bank. Stones have been exposed by erosion. It looks as if many large stones were placed by man along the shore formerly owned by ice companies. The stones are effective in protecting the bank against further erosion. For long stretches the river bank itself is solid rock. This is noticeable from Woolwich to Atlantic View. It is ironic that the same shoreland zoning regulations apply to a river bank of solid granite and a pond bank of highly erodible soil. Where the banks are lined with rocks the beach is covered with rough sharp stones. In coves, though, fine sand may be exposed. Where gravel deposits are close to the shore, gravel and sand cover the beach. Some islands such as Nehumkeag in Gardiner and Bodge Sands Island in Pittston have sandy beaches. On the shore near Agry's Point in Pittston the sand used to be a golden color. The end of Agry's Point was washed away in the freshet of 1936 and the beach is covered with mud and rocks. Where low meadows line the river, the beach tends to be muddy or sandy. There may be mud flats. In South Pittston, a long low dike with trees growing on it protects the wet meadow next to it. The dike looks manmade but no one knows when it was built.



The lower Kennebec River is just the seaward end of a large complex river system. The large volume of water flowing through the lower river brings with it a lot of organic material and mineral matter. The logs, lumber, branches and brush eventually float away or sink to the bottom. A real menace to boats is the deadhead. This is a log which can't decide whether to float or sink. This is partly waterlogged so that it has just one end above or even slightly below the surface. The mineral matter, such as sand and silt, may eventually reach the sea. However, much of it forms sand bars and fills up the ships channel. Such siltation comes from erosion from agricultural and logging operations, possibly far up the river. But a big part of the problem comes from the improper operation of some of the many gravel pits alongside the lower Kennebec River. Since the channel has not been dredged since 1939, shoaling is becoming critical. It is reported by Peter Cain, harbor master of Randolph, that a sand bar has built up from Brown's Island in Chelsea which reduces the channel depth to seven feet. This reduces the utility of the wharfs in Hallowell which is up river from Chelsea. Tankers of 14-foot draft used to dock in Hallowell. When driving along the side of the river from Farmingdale to Augusta at low tide, one sees how clogged the river looks. Below the Gardiner Bridge the channel is deeper but a survey is needed to reveal developing problems. The channel below Gardiner is very crooked so it needs to be clearly marked. A mile south of the Gardiner-Randolph Bridge, the water is deep right up to the edge of the Smithtown Cliffs in Pittston. There is room for several ships to anchor here without blocking the channel. When Gardiner was a busy port, vessels waited here for a turn at the unloading docks. Further down river, Nehumkeag Island is close to the Pittston shore. Yet the channel is to the east of the island. The island is in Gardiner since the boundary between Pittston and Gardiner is the channel. Some of the Pittston ice houses fronted on shallow water. Long shipping piers had to be built out to deep water to accommodate large schooners or steamboats used to ship ice to New York and Washington. Below Merrymeeting Bay the river narrows at The Chops. Here the river suddenly becomes 115 feet deeper. This is really a hidden waterfall in the river.


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