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Huge northern Maine dam proposal fell 30 years ago

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 24, 2013 at 12:02 pm •  Published: February 24, 2013

With elected officials' support fraying, and environmentalists and sporting enthusiasts battling it, the project was scaled back to a $175 million proposal, simply called Lincoln School.

But finally, in 1984, then-Sen. George Mitchell, the Maine Democrat later known as a champion of tougher environmental laws, said he could no longer "in good conscience" support Lincoln School.

Mitchell noted that his decision came as the government was trying to deal with big budget deficits. He also pointed to a finding by the Army Corps of Engineers that the project was not a sound financial investment. Maine's other senator at the time, Republican William Cohen, who had opposed the project, said he was pleased with Mitchell's decision.

Supporters of the project, including organized labor, said it would provide low-cost electricity and decrease dependence on foreign oil. They also contended that once the project was built the cost to operate it would be minimal. They saw the project as an economic dynamo for the low-income region of Maine.

But opponents said that projected costs were understated because the plan used unrealistically low government interest rate for financing it. They said the project would destroy a wild, whitewater river and flood valuable forest land.

Even in 1978, independent Gov. James Longley stated his opposition to Dickey-Lincoln.

"I was looking for reasons to build the project," Longley said. But he found no positives that were not overwhelmingly offset by negatives.