To the editor:
Our rivers, communities, and residents just received some much needed help from the legislature, thanks in large part to state Rep. Brian Dempsey. On Jan.10, Gov. Deval Patrick signed “An Act Further Regulating Dam Safety, Repair and Removal.” The new law also contains provisions to address seawalls and coastal infrastructure in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
There are approximately 2,892 dams in Massachusetts, many of which are in poor condition and threaten public safety. Some dams in Massachusetts are needed for flood control, hydropower and water supply, but most dams in Massachusetts were built during the industrial revolution and are no longer serving their original intended purpose. This legacy infrastructure not only poses a risk to public safety as was witnessed in Taunton in 2005 and in Freetown in 2010, it also prevents successful fish migration and spawning, which contributes to the depletion of fish populations and impacts the fishing industry. According to a report released by the Office of the State Auditor in January 2011, 100 dams owned by 62 municipalities in Massachusetts are rated in unsafe or poor condition. Two of these dams are located in Haverhill.
The new law creates a separate $17 million state revolving loan fund for the removal or repair of unsafe dams, strengthens current dam safety regulations, and increases fines for dam owners who are not in compliance with dam safety regulations.
The bill had support from a large cross section of groups, including engineers, environmentalists and municipal associations.
We want to thank Rep. Brian Dempsey for his hard work throughout the year and especially at the end of the legislative session for pushing the bill through the House to get it to the governor’s desk for signature. The City of Haverhill is fortunate to have a representative who understands the infrastructure challenges we face today and has the ability to make things happen on Beacon Hill.
Peter A. Richardson
Boston Society of Civil Engineers
Merrimack River Watershed Council