Dam in Massachusetts raises concerns in Eastern Connecticut

Published 23 December 2009

The condition of 40-year old dam in Massachusetts is deteriorating fast, and communities downstream in Connecticut are worried; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking at ways to shore up the 560 feet long and 78 feet high dam

Officials in Norwich, Connecticut, and other municipalities along the Thames River Basin are keeping an eye on a Massachusetts dam in need of major repairs. City Manager Alan Bergren, Emergency Management Director Gene Arters and Police Chief Louis Fusaro Sr. met last Friday with their counter parts from other cities and towns to discuss the Westville Dam.

Norwich Bulletin’s Michael Gannon reports that the dam is on the Quinebaug River in Southbridge, Mass. Putnam, Danielson, Jewett City and Norwich all are downstream.

Bergren last week gave the city council copies of letters from Commissioner Peter Boynton of Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and Col. Philip T. Feir of the Army Corps of Engineers, both of which express great concern about the dam’s condition.

“The Corps of Engineers has determined that the Westville Lake Dam has significant foundation and abutment seepage issues, and is in need of critical repairs for continued safe operation,” said Feir in a letter to state officials dated 19 November.

The dam, completed in 1962, is 560 feet long and 78 feet high. It is one of a series of six that control flooding on the Quinebaug and downstream.

Bergren told the council on Monday that the Army Corps will use the dams immediately upstream and downstream to hold more water in order to relieve pressure on the Westville Dam while studies continue. He said both the state and the Army Corps have promised periodic updates on the dam’s status.