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 email@example.com.