Derry board proposes removing Williams Dam Issue heads to voters on April 30

Location of Williams Dam in Londonderry

At a Special Meeting held on Thursday, March 24, the Select Board for Londonderry voted unanimously to recommend to the community that the town remove the Williams Dam, then placed the issue on the Town Meeting warning an article seeking to raise $40,000 for engineering costs for the removal process.

The Town Meeting for Londonderry will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 30 at the Town Hall, 139 Middletown Road.

The Williams Dam, constructed in the 1880s, is located on the West River, below the Route 11 bridge east of Route 100.  In 2015, a state of Vermont inspection noted that the dam is in poor condition and was continuing to worsen, then recommended that the town “retain a professional engineer qualified in dam safety to evaluate the dam and prepare plans for repair, replacement or removal of the dam.”

At the 2021 Town Meeting, the citizens voted “to raise $50,000 for an engineering study to evaluate the condition of the Williams Dam and to determine the comparative costs of its repair, replacement or removal.”

In November 2021, the town hired the engineering firm of DuBois & King Inc. to perform the study, which was presented to the town on last Thursday, after a presentation to the Select Board on the findings on the previous Monday.

Removal of the dam has been recommended previously. In June 2008, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources issued the Basin 11 Management Plan, which included the West, Williams and Saxtons rivers, outlined issues with the basin and mentions that the Williams Dam be considered for removal due to deteriorating conditions, blocking of fish passage, sediment accumulation and potential for safety hazards. The 2021 update of that plan also make this recommendation.

In early March, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Dam Safety program reclassified the hazard designation of the Williams Dam from “Low Hazard Potential Dam” to “Significant Hazard Potential Dam,” further emphasizing the town’s need to act on one of the alternatives to address the condition of the dam. Because of new dam safety rules from the department, the deteriorated condition of the dam and the hazard reclassification will require some action on the part of the town and a “no-action” alternative is not feasible.
The recent DuBois & King study estimates the costs of the various alternatives:

  • No action: $2,000
  • Rehabilitation: $767,000 to $900,000
  • Replacement: $1.331 million
  • Removal:  $425,000

The study notes that rehabilitation could receive some historic preservation grant funds. But according to staff of the Connecticut River Conservancy and the state Watershed Planning Program, removing the dam can be covered at little or no cost to the town since there are  earmarked funds for such projects.

According to Select Board Chair Tom Cavanagh, “Our consulting firm is particularly skilled in dam safety evaluations and has extensive Vermont experience, and it conducted a thorough analysis of the various Williams Dam alternatives that the public can rely on to draw conclusions about what direction the community should take.”

Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe added that “The Town clearly needs to act on one of the alternatives as the dam is in very poor shape and poses a risk to the community; the option to have it removed at little or no cost to the taxpayers appears to be the most prudent and environmentally sound way forward.”

The public is invited to review the 152-page study, copies of which can be viewed at the Town Office or online by clicking here. Scroll down to Williams Dam Engineering Study.

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Filed Under: Latest NewsLondonderry

About the Author: This item was edited from one or more press releases submitted to The Chester Telegraph.

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