As dams age and decay, they can become public safety hazards, presenting a failure risk and flooding danger. According to American Rivers, “more than 90,000 dams in the country are no longer serving the purpose that they were built to provide decades or centuries ago.” Dam removal has increasingly become the best option for property owners who can no longer afford the rising cost of maintenance and repair work required to maintain these complex structures.
Dams can also cause environmental issues such as blocking the movement of fish and other aquatic species, inundating river habitat, impairing water quality, and altering the flow necessary to sustain river life. Removing nonfunctional, outdated dams can bring a river back to its natural state and significantly increase biodiversity for the surrounding watershed.
Currently, work is underway in Watertown, Connecticut to remove the Heminway Pond Dam, which restricts fish passage in Steele Brook, creates a pond with increased water temperatures and high bacterial levels due to high geese populations, and encourages deposition of iron precipitate in the stream channel just downstream of the dam.
Princeton Hydro designed the engineering plans, managed permitting and is now overseeing construction for the removal project. The removal of the Heminway Pond Dam is identified as an integral component in addressing water quality impairment between the dam and Echo Lake Road.
REMOVAL OF HEMINWAY POND DAM ON STEELE BROOK IN WATERTOWN UNDERWAY
After almost 15 years of discussion and planning with the Town of Watertown and other partners, removal of Heminway Pond Dam on Steele Brook in Watertown finally got underway in early July. Though no longer functional, the dam and pond were originally constructed to supply water for a former thread/string mill. The Town acquired the dam and pond from the Siemon Company, the most recent owner, in 2007 with an eye towards removing the dam, restoring the river and converting the dewatered impoundment area into a passive recreation area, including an extension of the Steele Brook Greenway. With these goals in mind, the Town approached CT DEEP for help with removal of the dam.
As it turns out, CT DEEP, has also had a strong interest in seeing this dam removed. It is anticipated that dam removal will improve the hydrology in this section of Steele Brook and eliminate a water quality impairment which manifests itself during hot weather and low flow conditions, as an orange-colored plume of water (due to iron precipitate) immediately downstream of the dam that impacts aquatic life. Dam removal would also benefit fisheries by restoring stream connectivity and habitat.
Working towards these mutual goals, CT DEEP was able to provide federal CWA 319 nonpoint source grant funding to USDA NRCS to develop a watershed-based plan for Steele Brook to address nonpoint source impairments that includes a dam removal feasibility analysis for Heminway Pond Dam. Based on the recommendations in this plan, CT DEEP subsequently provided additional 319 grant funds to the Town of Watertown to hire a consultant to develop a dam removal design package, and assist with permitting and preparation.
With the Town of Watertown as a strong and vested partner, CT DEEP is now helping this project over the finish line by providing a combination of 319 and SEP funds to accomplish the actual dam removal and restoration of Steele Brook. Dayton Construction Company is performing the construction and Princeton Hydro is the consultant overseeing the project on behalf of the Town. The Northwest Conservation District is also assisting with the project. It is anticipated that the majority of the work will be completed by this Fall. U.S. EPA, ACOE and CT DEEP have all played active roles with regard to permitting the project.
Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. Click here to read about a recent dam removal project the firm completed on the Moosup River. And, to learn more about our dam and barrier engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.