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Old 10-01-2013, 08:50 AM
Hextall Hextall is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Lee, NH
Posts: 175

I'm on the Dam Steering committee for the town of Newmarket. Here's the reason that the dam is being looked at for possible removal and what's going on

The state inspected the dam several years ago, and found deficiencies that threaten its stability during various floods (like a 100-year event). So they, along with a hiredd engineering company, deteremined the dam needs fixing. In addition, based on state dam safety regulations, it'll need significant work to the structure for the current capacity.

A few years ago, there was a citizen's petition that put a warrant article to pay for a feasibilty study to determine the costs and impacts of removing the dam in downtown Newmarket (the one behind the refurbished mills). This article passed (although the funds were reduced at the deliberative session to around $40k). After a couple of years, the town council decided to form a Dam Steering committee to manage the hiring of a consultant to perform the feasibility study.

Newmarket was able to secure some additional funding from NOAA (and another source) to do the study, and after some issues with the warrant article funds, we finally were able to hire Gomez & Sullivan within the last month to do several tasks from the feasibility study. There is not enough funding to do all the tasks, but some of them aren't critical to understanding the costs of removing the dam.

There is a fish ladder current at the dam, and from what I know, there are anadromous fish that use it. So the dam isn't a complete barrier to fish migration... but it is an impediment.

The ultimate fate of the dam (in my opinion) is going to come down to whether Newmarket will be willing to pay for the repair to keep the dam (up to several millions of dollars) or whether they'll vote to remove it. The latter option has the benefit that there is several avenues for funding that won't come directly through Newmarket taxpayers. Unfortunately, I don't think the ecosystem and or the impoundment's use for recreation will be the major driving force when the residents decide what to do.

Another wrinkle is that there are properties in Durham along the river and will be affected by any changes to the impoundment... including the boat house (on Rt. 108 ) that I believe the UNH crew team uses (I'm probably wrong about that though). The owners of the boat house have been to several public meetings and have hinted of the possibilities of lawsuits if the dam is removed (there's a lawyer on our committee, and he's basically said there is virtually no way they can win based on previous decisions about dams in the state). In addition, Rt. 108 will be worked on by the DOT soon, and there's a hydraulic connection via a culvert that discharges some water to the Oyster River watershed. What's unknown is how much water will be diverted with a new culvert... and will this have any significant effect on what Newmarket will have to do to repair the dam. The DOT isn't all that forthcoming with their plan up to this point (although, up to this point it has not been the most respected dam engineering companies (Gomez and Sullivan) in the NE asking).

The original post asked, "Do we need this dam?" I don't think we necessarily need this dam (there is no longer any industrial function of the dam, and it currently isn't used for flood control), but for the many people who have come to the public comments, they certainly want don't want the dam removed (coincidentally, many of these people are very vocal about reducing taxes, so I'm not sure they realize the financial impact of their desires). The reasoning is cultural (they believe the dam gives the town some character), recreational (many believe that there is significant paddling going on in the impoundment) and financial (I think people worry about a significant reduction in property value along the river, and how that'll impact taxes for everyone). Also... as alluded to above, people just don't like change.

I've been a bit out of the loop for the past month or so when things have really kicked off, but the near term work is for the drawdown to inspect the structure, a bathymetry study as well as water level loggers being installed.

Editted to add: My personal view is that I really don't care if the dam stays or goes... there are costs and benefits to both options that for me, don't outweigh the other. I use that section of the river to canoe and kayak... I also would love more access for fish migration and would think there's a possibilty for more trout habitat to open up.

Last edited by Hextall; 10-18-2013 at 12:44 PM.
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