Monday, November 9, 2009

What is this Blog About

As you may or may not know there is a movement afoot to change our river and our community. People have been spending our tax dollars studying how to best change our river and directly effect our lives and property. The Army Corps of Engineers has completed a study and has issued their draft report recommending the removal of the Historic Ben Smith Dam, which will require dredging from the millponds in downtown Maynard past Crow Island.

How will removing the Dam affect our river?

For those of you who are not aware, the Ben Smith Dam is part of the historic mill complex in Maynard. It is responsible for the current geography of the river from Maynard to Gleasondale. Removing the Dam will result in the water level dropping 7 feet – turning the river into a shallow narrow stream, severely curtailing if not eliminating it's viability for Canoeing Kayaking or Fishing, not to mention destroying its current beauty and aesthetics along with 100+ acres of wetlands. Ask your conservation commission if this really qualifies as a "Limited" project.

Why would anyone want to remove the Dam?

Some would like you to believe that the Dam is the cause of our river not meeting state and federal clean water standards. On the other hand some believe that removing the Dam will only allow towns upstream to save their local tax dollars and continue to pollute our river. A consortium of towns who dump their wastewater into our river have decided that it is better to remove our dam then for them to simply conform to the same clean water standards in the winter that they are already required to comply with in the summer.

Why, after the enormous capital expenditures these towns have undertaken to upgrade their wastewater treatment plants to hold a 0.1 mg/l phosphorous discharge level in the summer, do they still balk at the incremental cost to maintain this level in the winter? It is stupefying that they would rather ruin the profound natural beauty of our neighborhood, the recreational value, and the wildlife habitat – as if dumping their waste into our yards was not insult enough.

Are there other solutions?

How far could the million dollars spent on this study – or the proposed $13 million (More like $50M) that it would cost to remove the Ben Smith Dam – go towards winter operating costs? But that's state and federal money instead of their town money so that makes it better for them but unfortunately it is at our expense.


  1. I would like to see some creditable agency or group do an equally exhaustive study, on the negative aspects of removing any dam along the river. Obviously, the Army Corp of Engineers, even though a fine engineering division, would not be the most reliable do to their mission. In addition, I would like to know how and who originally got the Army Corp of Engineers involved. I would think that the sewerage treatment plants should be held responsible to adhere to the mandates imposed upon them and severely fined in not meeting deadlines rather than keep pushing off these time lines with excuses. Once the plants clean up their act we can then see if anything else should be done. This whole thing seems to me to be a one way mission with the Army Corp of Engineers. They say they want feedback but the meetings I have attended it seems the structure is such that it's not possible to have a fair dialogue.
    This blog idea is great to hopefully get the facts on the table

  2. Thanks Dick,

    Many others are equally frustrated by the onesidedness of this dam removal agenda. In the past we could have looked to an organization like OAR, but having attended several of the recent OAR sponsored events has left me wondering...

    Wasn't OAR started by canoeists and kayakers?

  3. I have taken the time to extensively read the Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) full report. As an abutter to the river, I feel that there is very little ink devoted to the negative aspects of dam removal -- it is heavily one sided. The most important thing I would like to say is that the ACoE may have issued a biased report because we need to ask the question, "Who will be managing the removal of the dams and doing the actual construction/deconstruction work." If it is ACoE, there is a serious conflict of interest in their conclusions. It is imperative that an independent third party do an analysis. Finally, if we go back to the beginning and ask why are the waste water treatment plants not being held to the standard, and their purchase of items to reduce effluent to the standard during the winter. It would seem that the externality of cost is being passed on from cities upriver of the dams -- especially shrewsbury but others too -- to those downstream. And this does not even mention the serious loss of natural beauty from the loss of water acerage, serious loss of recreational value, abutters who live on the river having to deal with lost property values and serious noise and smells during construction, and other impacts to the "human population."

  4. Thank you for taking the time to put this blog together. I appreciate having all of this information in one place.

  5. From an Assabet abutter,

    Interesting start of some dialoge. Like most things in life there are pluses and minuses. Is the objective to improve the quality of water in the river and thus where is the best $ spent to get that, or is it to improve the total environment of the river by bringing the river back to its original free running state with fish and wildlife that can migrate freely up and down the river? With any luck we may get both.

  6. Excellent Point - Next Post "Fish Ladders"

  7. How I wish the dam was torn down before this 2010 flood. There'd be much less flooding in the yards.

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