Dam issue arises again

>Expert advises Milford to study removal

MILFORD – Two years ago, selectmen decided not to dismantle the two downtown dams.

Last week, George May, president of the Souhegan Watershed Association, told the Milford Conserva­tion Commission it should revisit the issue.

"If you people speak out," it might happen, he said.

May said dam removal is going to happen eventu­ally because if the dams fail, it "would cost big bucks."

The selectmen’s unani­mous vote in 2014 came after the town commis­sioned a study of dam re­moval, wanting to see if the dams were a contrib­uting factor in the million dollars’ worth of dam­age to the Boys & Girls Club and other buildings from floods in 2007 and 2010. They were also con­cerned about liability for dam maintenance and re­pairs.

A Henniker engineer­ing firm studied the dams over two years, looking at whether removal would be good for the town and for the river. Along with potential flooding, it stud­ied water quality, fish pas­sage, the costs of owner­ship and the availability of grants for removal.

The firm, which provid­ed facts but did not make a recommendation, re­ported that removal of the Goldman Dam, the one near the Stone Bridge, would offer minimal flood reduction benefits, and removal of McLane Dam would provide some flood-prevention benefits to seven land­owners.

But removing the dams would improve water quality, the report said, and would have other en­vironmental and recre­ation benefits.

The Merrimack Vil­lage Dam was removed in 2008, and taking down the Milford dams would open up 6 more miles of free-flowing habitat for fish, mussels and crayfish to the next dam, in Wilton, while giving migratory fish, including shad, her­ring and eels, free pas­sage between Wilton and the ocean.

The engineering re­port also said the Milford dams have no function anymore and called them a potential liability.

The Milford Historical Society and Milford Heri­tage Commission were opposed to dam removal. Selectmen decided the structures are important to the history and appear­ance of downtown Mil­ford.

At their recent meeting, Conservation Commis­sion members asked May a few questions, but did not indicate whether they would push for removal, although Chairwoman Audrey Fraizer said she is in favor.

"It is evident from George’s comments that the dams should be re­moved," she said later in an email. "The E. coli lev­els behind them are high. The Souhegan would be a healthier river if it was free-flowing. The dams are not functional."

A representative from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra­tion told Milford officials that dam removal would be a long, complex pro­cess that would bring big benefits to the town and to the environment.

Town Administrator Mark Bender said select­men have not revisited the issue.

The report from Gomez and Sullivan Engineers and other documentation about the dams is at www. milford.nh.gov.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.