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

Friday, September 2, 2011

Yes, It's Flooded, But That's Good

Click on images for larger image.
The little parking lot outside
the main gate.
If you have driven to the Westville Recreation Area in the  past several days you probably saw the scene at the left.  The area is totally flooded from Hurricane Irene, but it's supposed to flood like this.  It's all according to plan.
After the floods from the 1938 hurricane that swept through the Sturbridge and Southbridge area, and the further flooding from the hurricanes of the 1950's, the Federal government decided to build some dams along the Quinebaug River to prevent any future flooding, and property damage.  Locally, the East Brimfield Dam in Fiskdale was constructed, and the Westville Dam in Southbridge.  Together, since they were constructed, they have prevented millions, and millions of dollars worth of damage from happening to the towns along the river.  Last weekends deluge of rain, that accompanied Hurricane Irene, was no different, the dams handled the water well, and so much damage was prevented by their being there. 

The athletic field, and parking lot
are under all that water.
Normally, the "pool" behind the Westville Dam, a swollen part of the Quinebaug River called Westville Lake,  is about eleven feet deep, and covers 23 acres.    If needed, such as with heavy rains from a hurricane, the drainage area of 99.5 square miles surrounding the dam can fill the pool to 55 feet deep, and the pool can then spread out and  cover 913 acres!  The recreation area behind the dam is there to give a secondary purpose to all that open land.  That open land has a primary purpose beyond recreation.  Its purpose is a collection area for all the excess water that comes with heavy storms.  The dam then releases the water in manageable amounts, and it flows downstream.
The High Water mark is in the middle
of the photo, on the far left.

In recent years the East Brimfield Dam, and the Thompson Dam in Connecticut, have taken some of the water load away from Westville and allowing the pool at Westville to be drawn down lower than normal during normal water flow.  This is due to seepage below the dam at Westville.  The dam is leaking.  The seepage is monitored constantly by the Army Corp of Engineers, and a temporary plan to repair the dam is in the works as a permanent repair is designed.  Those "antennae" like rods sticking out of the top of the dam with the solar panel on the top are piezometers, and there are a lot of them.  Their job is to monitor the leakage down below the dam.  

The recent storm filled the pool up to the old high water mark, and that put a great deal of pressure on the dam.  This is something the Corp does not want to happen for the long term.  Not until a fix is made.

The Pool

In light of Westville seeping, and leaking, I hope that a remedy, and fix is found soon.  The dam survived last weekend, but I don't want to stretch our good fortune to the breaking point.In the meantime, we can be very thankful that the dams did work, and they worked well.  I would not want to contemplate the amount of flood damage Irene alone would have caused, not to mention all the other storms over the past 50 years, if those dams were not where they were.

Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers we have stayed a lot drier over the past 50 years, and I hope for many more years to come.  

The bike / walking trail on the
Sturbridge side of the
river is currently underwater.

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