Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More Dam Logic

Hello everyone,

Please forward this e-mail to your Sturbridge neighbors, friends and family, and other Sturbridge residents. Please respond to me after reading this if you can join me:

Last Thursday evening, an informational meeting was held about dam removal and stream restoration at Hamant Brook. There was good attendance by residents who heard about and saw successful examples of dam removal projects, presented by representatives from American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, and MA Riverways Program.

The general consensus by residents was that dam removal and stream restoration was a good option - there are more pros than cons - plus the burden of cost is taken off residents' shoulders through available mitigation funds and other funding sources.

In attendance at the meeting, the Chairman of the Sturbridge Conservation Commission stated he would send an e-mail to the Selectboard the next day, to set a date to facilitate discussions; however, to my knowledge that has not happened.

RECAP: The Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety requires that Phase I inspections are completed on the Upper and Middle Pond Dams, at a cost of $7,000-$8,000 EACH; reports are due by August and October 2009. These Orders were received in the Selectboard's office on May 3rd and are the first step in the process toward bringing the dams into conformance with Dam Safety Regulations.

The town does NOT have the option of allowing the dams to naturally disintegrate -the choices are: repair, or replace, and there are deadlines and costs involved; OR, approve the Department of Fish & Game's proposal to remove the dams and restore the stream at no cost to residents.

Residents have not been made aware of the costs and deadlines involved with keeping the dams in place. To date, there has been no movement on this issue by the Conservation Commission, Selectboard, or Finance Committee. The 62-62 split vote at town meeting indicates there IS support for dam removal. **The town WILL be expected to fund costs of all inspections, permitting, design, repair or replacement, and maintenance of the dams.**

Estimates to REPAIR these two dams currently range from $487,000 to $517,000. Estimates to REPLACE the dams go as high as $1.2 million, which does not include inspections, design, permitting or future maintenance.

Please respond to this e-mail: Can you join me in a Citizen's Forum on Monday, June 1st, 8:30 pm, at the Selectboard meeting at the Sturbridge Senior Center? We must ask the Selectboard to face this issue. The decision to keep or remove the dams is needed soon!
Carol Childress
774 248-0648


  1. Wally,

    Thanks for posting this letter. The Chairperson of the Selectboard responded that she did receive an e-mail from the Chairperson of the Conservation Commission. This is good news, because it shows that there is movement on this issue.

    This is all the more reason to attend the Selectboard's Citizen's Forum on Monday evening. Hope to see interested citizens there.

  2. Cha-Ching!I learned this morning that the Conservation Commission will be requesting $15,200 more from Sturbridge residents at the next town meeting, to pay for Phase I inspections of the dams at Hamant Brook.

    This is on top of the $12,000 already spent by taxpayers for a 2nd opinion on cost to repair two dams at Hamant Brook. The 2nd opinion was was basically the same as the first: the first estimate said it will cost $487,000; and the 2nd opinion said $517,000, to repair both dams. Cha-Ching!

    If the Phase I inspections state the dams are in "poor" or "unsafe" condition, then Phase II inspections will be required. Phase II inspections are more expensive because they require drilling, stabilization and other testing. Cha-Ching!

    The Conservation Agent is currently overwhelmed with her workload and in a couple weeks will be asking the Selectboard for a budget increase to pay for an additional person to help out in that office. Dam repair and maintenance requires time-sensitive form filings and personnel to stay on top of it. Cha-Ching!

    The purse strings are beginning to open, folks. Keep in mind that these Phase I inspections are required by August, and October, 2009.

    Residents may want to give deeper thought to the proposal by Fish & Game to remove the dams and restore the stream at no cost to taxpayers.

    Don't send a letter to the Selectboard, because it will not be read at their meetings. Rather, come to the Conservation Commission on June 4th, at 9pm, and tell the Commissioners you want the dams removed!

  3. The $15,200 will not be requested at the upcoming town meeting. On June 1, 2009, Jim Malloy said:

    "The Conservation Agent was recently provided copies of the Orders from the DCR Office of Dam Safety requiring a Phase I dam inpsection of the upper and middle dams by the end of August (upper) and October (middle) of this year. Even if a decision to remove the dams is made by the Conservation Commission, it doesn't relieve the Town of meeting the conditions of these orders. Erin Jacque, our Conservation Agent obtained quotes from CME to conduct Phase I dam inspections and received a cost estimate of $7,600 per dam ($15,200 for both dams), which is consistent with the last inspection they conducted for the Town for the dam at Cedar Lake. I received this information today (dated June 1) with a request of how to increase the Conservation Commission budget to cover these costs. It would not come from free cash, but would need to come from either a reserve fund transfer or from a transfer from other available funds with the approval of the Board of Selectmen or Finance Committee. The other alternative would be to review whether a transfer from the waterways improvement account or other accounts would be a possibility."

    The Orders from the Office of Dam Safety were received on May 3rd - they're already one month old. Be that as it may, I hope this e-mail shows people that the costs associated with keeping these dams is inching closer to our purses with each day that passes and there isn't the option of voting on it either.

    However, the town can meet its obligations by requesting extensions to these Phase I inspections. This option has not been explored, but it could potentially save the town money in the short term while DFG works to line up its funding sources for dam removal.


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