Boston Globe Agrees that the Solution to Hazardous Dams is Removal

Over the past several weeks, flooding in New England has resulted in:

  • The failure of the Forge Pond Dam in Freetown, Massachusetts, causing the evacuation of homes and businesses downstream.
  • The failure of the Bolivar Street Dam in Canton, Massachusetts, causing the evacuation of an apartment building and sending sewage into the building.
  • Leaks in the Rutan Dam in Stonington, Connecticut, causing the evacuation of homes downstream – the same homes that also had to be evacuated in a past flood because of the dam.
  • A dam inspector falling ten feet into a hidden sinkhole on the Hathaway Pond Dam in Rochester, Massachusetts that had scoured out and threatened the failure of the entire structure. (Fortunately the inspector was not badly hurt).
  • The mayor of Montville, Connecticut evacuated a portion of town out of concerns that the Rand-Whitney Dam could breach.
  • The failure of the Colcord Pond Dam in Porter, Maine, destroying a road downstream.

Unfortunately these are not isolated incidents. It is a systemic problem brought about by the number and age of so many of our dams. There are more than 23,000 dams in the northeast part of the country from Pennsylvania to Maine. Many, probably most, no longer provide the function that they were built to provide. They are relics of an industrial past and many are now hazardous to public safety.  In fact, The Boston Globe ran a feature story on this in Sunday’s issue.

According to Massachusetts’ state records, the state has 62 dams that are classified as high hazard – meaning that their failure will likely cause extensive property damage or loss of life – AND are in poor or unsafe condition. 62 dams that could kill someone and are in poor condition! We are able to present that incredible and perplexing data here because Massachusetts has done a good job inspecting dams and maintaining records. This is certainly not a problem in Massachusetts alone. There, and in other states, it is time to move beyond just inspections and short-term repairs to ensure public safety for the long-term.

The Boston Globe recognized in an editorial today that the only real, permanent solution to outdated dams is to remove them.

Watch the trailer for our forthcoming DVD on how communities around the country have removed dams and set back levees to increase their resilience to flooding and request your own complimentary copy.