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West Harbor Pond 1880 dam siphon that removes saltwater from the pond Boothbay Harbor Maine
Siphon Project.rev-2.jpg

West Harbor Pond was created in 1880 when a dam was constructed across the mouth of Campbell Cove to create a freshwater pond for the production of natural ice for sale to the large urban centers of the Eastern Seaboard.


Capt. E.D. Haley designed the dam and installed a passive siphon to evacuate sea water trapped behind the dam at the time of construction. This siphon continued to purge sea water that entered the Pond at extreme high tides and by  infiltration through the body of the dam. The salt water would, because of its greater density, sink to the pond bottom. Capt. Haley used natural tidal action to power the siphon. As the tide receded on the harbor side of the dam, the siphon – whose intake was at the 15’ level – would remove the salt-water down to that level, leaving the upper water clear, fresh and suitable for making ice. We believe there is no other siphon like this in anywhere in Maine. 

While ice production ceased in the second decade of the Twentieth Century, the siphon continued to serve the crucial role of protecting the water quality of the Pond, until, after 130 years, it failed in 2008. The West Harbor Pond Watershed Association, which has been monitoring the water quality of the Pond for several years, found that the loss of the siphon has permitted the salt water in the Pond to rise to within 12 feet of the surface, creating a zone of deoxygenated water extending from that level to the bottom of the Pond where fish struggle to survive.

After six years of intensive efforts, the West Harbor Pond Watershed Association was successful in replacing the broken 1880 siphon, which could no longer remove salt water from the bottom of the pond. In the summer of 2018, the WHPWA’s Campaign to Save West Harbor Pond surpassed the goal to raise the necessary funds to build and install a new siphon.

Prior to the installation of the new siphon, a substantial amount of prep work had to be done:  a hole was cored through the dam, long lengths of 6" pipe were fused together, and a manhole cylinder was fitted with controls to operate the siphon. 

In December 2018, during a period of bitterly cold weather, the harbor-side siphon pipe was placed in the harbor, threaded through the dam, laboriously fitted with 300-lb. weights, and attached to the manhole cylinder, which was now in place. In early March, the harbor-side siphon pipe was attached to the manhole cylinder, both pipes were cleared of ice, and tracing dye was injected into the siphon. A plume of green dye rose to the surface of the harbor, showing that, after six long years, the siphon was finally working!  We have a photo-essay on the siphon installation work, to be found here.

The WHPWA owes a deep debt of gratitude to Pat and Kipp Farrin and to their crew, Mike Doyen, Josh Cook, and Todd Hyson, as well as Kent Berry and his lobster boat, for their ingenuity, hard work, and persistence under difficult weather conditions.  The WHPWA is also indebted to the Boothbay Region Water District, its General Manager, Jon Ziegra; its Distribution Foreman, Dale Harmon; and the members of the BRWD crew who assisted in the siphon project: Taylor Timberlake, Shawn Simmons, Trevor Morin, and Weston Alley.  This project would not have been possible without Pat Farrin & Sons’ donation of their work at a discounted rate and the BRWD’s generous donation of materials, labor, and expertise. 

When the replacement siphon was installed in March 2019, it marked the culmination of five years of hard work by the WHPWA. This final report describes the success of that effort in detail: 


This effort was well publicized in the Boothbay Register and followed with great interest in our community.  Below are links to sixteen articles that appeared in the Register between 2016 and the completion of the siphon in March 2019.  These articles provide a rough chronological narrative of the last three years of work that culminated in the siphon being turned on March 8, 2019.

Group rallies to save West Harbor Pond   (8/17/16)

Plan B emerges for West Harbor Pond water woes  (9/27/16)

West Harbor siphon woes may be closer to solution  (3/30/17)

Grant secured for West Harbor Pond siphon repair project  (6/13/17)

West Harbor Pond siphon examined underwater  (10/14/17)

WHPWA kicks off fundraising campaign  (6/29/18)

Save West Harbor Pond  (7/25/18)

Thanks from the WHPWA (9/25/18)

West Harbor Pond siphon project nears completion  (12/24/18)

It takes a village (12/31/18)

At long last, West Harbor Pond siphon up and running  (3/18/19)

West Harbor Pond siphon in jeopardy  (7/31/19)

West Harbor Pond Siphon Resumes Operation (12/2/19)

West Harbor Pond Siphon Beginning to Do Its Job  (4/24/20)

WHPWA Decides to Allow the Siphon to Remain On (5/16/20)

Siphon Successful in Improving the Water Quality of West Harbor Pond (2/16/21)

WHPWA Updates Selectmen on Pond Water Quality (2/22/21)

Related documents prepared by the WHPWA include:

A letter of thanks from the WHPWA Board of Directors (9/15/18)

and a photo essay on the siphon development:

Green Dye on the Water: Building and Installing the New West Harbor Pond Siphon (3/15/19)

© 2024 by West Harbor Pond Watershed Association.

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Examining the siphon on West Harbor Pond dam Boothbay Harbor Maine
Date stamp on West Harbor Pond 1880 dam siphon Boothbay Harbor Maine
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West Harbor Pond Siphon Installation
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