A Dam Shame

Between the closing of two of the three Portsmouth-Kittery bridges and the repairs to other red-listed bridges, it’s hard not to see that New Hampshire’s infrastructure is crumbling.
That’s not unique to the Granite State and shouldn’t be used as a political football – it comes down to priorities and money.
Close to home, we face another aspect of crumbling infrastructure in the many old dams in our towns.
Last week, a vigilant resident noticed water level changes from the Beaver Meadow Dam in Derry. The dam owner, the Town of Derry, found a large hole and is working with the state Dam Bureau on emergency repairs. The dam plays a significant role in Beaver Lake’s water level.
Derry chose to remove the Pond Road dam at Beaver Lake last year. It no longer worked and did not impact Beaver Lake water levels. It dated back to when the former Chase Mill – now condos – used water power to operate.
In Londonderry, Moose Hill Orchards, the owner of the Adams Pond Dam, cleaned out debris from the dam in recent years and left the water low, basically eradicating the pond. The dam had been put in for orchard irrigation but no longer serves that purpose. A local group, however, wants the pond restored, and that would require extensive – and expensive – studies.
The private owners of the Johnson Pond Dam in Hampstead breached and repaired it in 2011 after DES directed them to either make repairs or remove the dam to stop flooding downstream. The work changed its classification from “Low Hazard” to “Non Menace,” but also altered the neighborhood’s pond.
And the future of the Adams Pond dam in East Derry is up in the air, as neighbors hope to find money to purchase and preserve the historic structure, after the state issued a Letter of Deficiency and ordered the privately owned dam be replaced, removed, or removed and rebuilt – the latter resulting in lowering the pond. The dam dates back to Derry’s earliest days as Nutfield.
There’s a pattern here. Dams pose a risk and carry liability. The least expensive option often is removal – something that ultimately returns the stream ecosystem to a more natural state, although it may be far different than what generations of residents are used to. And a piece of history is lost in the bargain.
Once again, it comes down to priorities – and ultimately, to money. What would you choose?

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