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Springfield City Councilors Praise Project To Repair Hazardous Dam, Preserve Lake

Screen capture by WAMC

       A large lake in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts will be drawn down starting this fall to allow for repairs to a dam that state inspectors have categorized as “High Hazard.” 

     Watershops Pond, also known as Lake Massasoit, which covers about 186 acres and has seven miles of shoreline, will be drawn down to about 20 acres with a depth of no more than four-feet as a prelude to a $2.5 million project to repair the 160-year old Watershops dam.

     The water level will be slowly lowered over the course of several weeks starting in October, with the actual repair work to the dam scheduled to begin next spring. The timing is to protect hibernating wildlife, according to Tom Jenkins, an engineer with GZA Geoenvironmental, the project designers.

      Speaking at a meeting Tuesday of the Springfield City Council Maintenance and Development Committee, Jenkins said the drawdown will present an opportunity for the city to clean out large amounts of debris, trash, and junk that have accumulated in the pond.

     A sonar examination of the pond last May detected about half-dozen submerged automobiles. There also remains considerable debris deposited by the June 1st 2011 tornado.

    The concrete and masonry dam was built in the 19th Century to supply hydropower to the Springfield Armory.  The federal government sold the dam to the city in 1969, the year after the Pentagon closed the Armory.

   Jenkins said the repairs to the dam are estimated to take 18 months to complete.

   "The resiliency improvements will revitilize the dam for coming generations," said Jenkins. " The dam is in fair condition. It is safe."

   Once the dam is repaired and the pond is again filled, the city plans to restock it with fish and perhaps build a boat ramp.

   City Councilor Tim Allen praised the plans for the project.  He said it will leave the city with an unparalleled resource.

   " I am psyched about this," said Allen. "It touches so many neighborhoods in Springfield. It could be a massive win. Other cities just don't have a natural resource like this in the middle of the city."

    The Maintenance and Development Committee voted to endorse the project.   It has also been approved by the Springfield Parks Commission, which has jurisdiction over the dam and the pond.

    Ellen Moorhouse, who lives on Undine Circle along the shore of the pond, said she fully supports the project.  She urged the city to come up with a plan to keep the pond clean.

    " As far as trash remediation and mitigating trash in the water, I think that is a huge concern for the neighbors," said Moorhouse.

     The project is being funded through a natural disaster recovery program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

     Two years ago, the city completed a $2.4 million rehabilitation of an earthen dam in Van Horn Park, which had been classified since 2007 as “high hazard.”






The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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