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New State Bill To Fund Dam Repairs

Noho dam siteNORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB) — Governor Patrick just signed a bill allocating millions of dollars towards the repair of dams and some of that money will be well spent here in Western Mass.

According to the state, there are 100 dams in Massachusetts considered hazardous and  in need of repair. Several of them are local.

Now, thanks to a new bill making 17-million dollars available for loan to cities and towns, those deemed old and in poor condition can be repaired or torn down.

“There are about 3,000 in Massachusetts,” said Kin Lutz of the Nature Conservancy – Connecticut River Program. “About 85% of those dams were built around the turn of the century during the industrial revolution and no longer serve the purpose for which they were built.”

Lutz said her group was instrumental in shaping the bill, and though she calls it necessary to solve a growing problem, the new funds will only go to municipalities. That leaves many dams outside of cities and towns untouched… at least for now.

“There’s a lot of work to be done. A lot of these dams present a significant safety hazard as well as an impediment to our river health.”

Some dams, like the Roberts Meadow Upper Reservoir Dam in Northampton are decades if not a century or more old and have outlived their usefulness. The Roberts Meadow dam was built back in 1883 and is considered a high hazard. That’s why the city is looking to simply tear it down but is still waiting on funding. And while the $17 million dollars will shore up some safety issues on state water ways, it’s still just a drop in the bucket.

“I think it’s a great start,” said Lutz. “It’s an expensive proposition but a very worthwhile endeavor.”

Also on the states list of hazardous dams – a total of 4 owned by Springfield, one  owned by Greenfield, and one owned by Holyoke.

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