History of Harris Station

Construction and Specifications

Harris Station is the largest dam in Maine. It is located on the upper Kennebec River, and is the first of several major dams on the Kennebec. Harris Station is known to FERC as the Indian Pond Project. The dam's construction significantly enlarged the pre-existing Indian Pond. Prior to Harris, there was a small wooden dam at the outlet of Indian Pond which served to regulate water flow for log drives and to provide a crossing point on the Kennebec. Indian Pond originally covered about two square miles, but its size increased to 5 ½ square miles with the creation of Harris Station. The depth of the pond also increased by about 20 feet, and the total impoundment is now nine miles long. Central Maine Power Company (CMP) built the dam, beginning construction in 1952 and completing the project in 1955. The dam was dedicated and began operation in October of 1954, when the first of its three generators started producing power. Harris takes its name from Ford Harris, who was the chief engineer of CMP when the dam was created. Harris Station's dimensions are impressive, the dam stands 175 feet tall and spans 270 feet across the gorge. Harris has the largest generating capacity of all Maine dams, at a maximum of 85.9 megawatts. Harris' power house contains four generators, two of which have capacities of 30,000 kilowatts. Once the construction of Harris was completed, CMP built a boat launch, picnic areas, and several campsites on Indian Pond to accommodate public recreation. CMP also built a few houses for their workers near the dam along Indian Pond Road.

Log Drives

When the dam was constructed, logging companies working in the area were still actively using the Kennebec for log drives. In order to accommodate this activity, a large log sluice was built on the western end of the dam to allow logs to pass Harris and continue downriver towards the mills. In the 1950s, about 84,500 cords of wood passed through this sluiceway every year. There was also a large sluiceway about a half mile downstream near the confluence with Chase Stream. The last log drive in the continental United States occurred on the Kennebec in 1976, beginning in Moosehead Lake and continuing to Winslow. Only softwood was driven downstream because it floats more effectively than hardwoods. The log drive was stopped in 1976 based on environmental considerations. Pulp clogged the lakes and rivers as the logs made their way downstream, which led to many water quality issues.

Electricity Generation and Regulation

The main purpose of the dam at Indian Pond has always been the generation of hydropower. Electricity from Harris is fed into the New England grid and moves throughout the state and the surrounding areas. Harris is crucial to the grid because of it's black-start capability, which means that the station can begin generating power and come on-line without the input of electricity. Black-start generating locations help start up other generators in the event of a large outage. Central Maine Power attained a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate the dam for a license term of 50 years. During that time, however, Maine state law changed and required the splitting of power generation and transmission holdings. Thus, the dam was sold to Florida Power and Light Maine Hydro (FPL), which still operates Harris. CMP still exists, but is simply a power transmission company. The FERC license for the Indian Pond Project was transferred to FPL when the purchase was made. Thus, FPL became responsible for the relicensing of the project when the original license expired on December 31, 2001.

The Indian Pond Project – Harris Dam, Indian Pond, and the power house.

Back to the main Harris page. 

Upstream to Indian Pond and Moosehead Lake.

Downstream through the Kennebec Gorge to Wyman Lake.

The relicensing of Harris Station.

What does the future hold for Harris?

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