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New England News

Second Dam At Springfield Park To Be Examined For Safety


   Having just finished a major project to repair a dam once considered a threat to public safety and property, officials in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts have turned their attention to a second dam in the same area. 

  The city is actively seeking proposals from engineering firms to do an analysis of the structure of the Upper Van Horn Reservoir Dam.  

   In 2016, a $2.4 million project began to rehabilitate the lower earthen dam in Van Horn Park, which had been classified since 2007 as a “high hazard” because state inspectors found it to be structurally deficient and in generally poor condition.

  Springfield Park Commission Chairman Brian Santaniello said at the time the repair project began that officials had kept a nervous eye on the dam for 15 years.

" We would get reports from consultants who warned that all it would take is a 100-year storm and it could breach," said Santaniello.  " Along came hurricane Sandy, and thank God it veered off and it missed us."

  Officials said if the dam breached it could cause catastrophic damage to homes in the Atwater Park neighborhood, businesses in the North End, and Baystate Medical Center.

Repairs to the lower dam were finished last fall.

"We now have really a beautiful structure for that lower dam and it has created that safety for both Baystate Medical and the north end of the city," said  Pat Sullivan, the city’s director of parks, recreation, and buildings.

  He said the upper earthen dam is not considered a safety risk at this time.

  " There is no immediate danager  with the upper dam, however we don't want it to get to that point," said Sullivan.

The upper dam forms an embankment for Armory Street and provides flood protection.

" The thought when these earthen dams were built was to allow trees to grow on the structures, but that is no longer the case as the trees can come down in storms, create voids, and cause weak spots in the dams," explainded Sullivan.

As part of the lower dam project, all trees and stumps were removed from the structure and a walking path was built on the top. Hard-packed stone was put on the water side. Repairs were made to a pipe that goes through the dam, a concrete outlet, and steel bar grates.

$120,000 has been earmarked for the study of the upper dam.

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