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Repairs To High Hazard Dam To Begin


   Work is expected to begin next month on a $3 million project to repair a dam in Springfield, Massachusetts that has been classified as “high hazard.” 

     The repairs to the Watershops Pond dam are needed to protect the homes and businesses in the city’s South End from the potential of a catastrophic flood explained Mayor Domenic Sarno when the project was announced back in February 2020.

     The concrete and masonry dam was built in the 19th Century to supply hydropower to the Springfield Armory.  The city has owned the dam since 1969.

      A contract for the repair work was awarded this month to Gardner Engineering of Chicopee. Other companies have fabricated new gates and a new hydraulic power unit for the dam, said Peter Garvey, the city’s Director of Capital Asset Construction.

      "Reinforcing the dam and putting a new gate on the top of the dam," Garvey said. "The gate is beyond its funtional life and we're doing some repairs to the dam to bring it up to current codes."

      He said the bulk of the work should be completed by the end of this year with some finishing work to follow in the spring of 2022.

      Once the dam is repaired it will be a key part of Springfield’s climate-resilient infrastructure.

     "It will give us the ability to lower the level of the pond when we know a storm is coming so we can release water in a more appropriate way," Garvey said.

      To prepare for repairs to the dam, the water level of Watershops Pond, also known as Lake Massasoit, was lowered by about 12 feet last fall.

       The drawdown revealed tons of junk, trash, and debris all along the roughly seven miles of shoreline.   Garvey said a contractor will be hired to clean up the watershed area before the lake is restored to its normal depth next spring.

       "There will be an opportunity to restock the pond with fish and other aquatic life," Garvey said.

        The city’s parks department is looking into the possibility of adding boat launches.

        City Councilor Tim Allen said the project affords the city an opportunity to develop an unparalleled resource.

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

        The project is being paid for with money from a natural disaster resiliency program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

         In 2018, the city completed a $2.4 million rehabilitation of an earthen dam in Van Horn Park in order to protect parts of the city’s North End from floods during major storms.



Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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