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Ashfield Lake dam needs $250,000 repair

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The spillway and dam at Ashfield Lake.<br/>
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The spillway and dam at Ashfield Lake.<br/>

ASHFIELD — After a recent inspection, the condition of the Ashfield Lake earthen dam has been downgraded from “good” to “fair,” and town officials have already started making improvements.

According to a report by Tighe and Bond engineers, the estimated cost for short-term repairs to be made are about $47,000. But other long-term recommendations proposed could cost around $250,000, Selectboard Chairman Douglas Field told fellow board members Wednesday night.

“This is something we have to take care of,” said Field, who is also the town’s emergency management director. “We can’t ignore it, but they didn’t put any timetable on it. It’s not serious or dangerous.”

Field said the inspection report from Tighe and Bond had just arrived Wednesday, shortly before the Selectboard meeting, so the full board hadn’t had time to read it and discuss it that night.

According to Highway Superintendent Thomas Poissant, who was on the dam inspection, the change from “good” to “fair” does not mean the earthen dam is in immediate danger.

“There is no crisis or emergency,” he said. “This was a routine inspection that is required every two years” by the state.

If there were a catastrophic breach of the dam, during a flood or hurricane, the greatest danger would be to residents living on Bronson Avenue, which is a low-lying area near the lake.

Ashfield Lake is spring-fed and the water moves downstream into the South River. If the dam had a catastrophic breach, Poissant said, “it’s not like the whole lake is going to move downstream. It’s going to increase the velocity of the South River. The farther it goes downstream, the more areas there are to disperse the water — low-lying agricultural areas to slow it down.”

The short-range tasks proposed in the report include developing an operating and maintenance manual for the dam and updating an emergency management plan. They also include surveying the dam crests for additional low areas, hydrologic and hydraulic analysis; reviewing past information for a stability analysis, and performing additional regrading of the dam crest.

These improvements also include repointing the masonry, repairing a misaligned toe-drain outlet and removing large trees from the right embankment.

The trees are not on town property, but the tree roots could damage the dam if the trees were uprooted during another devastating storm. Field said there are three trees on the dam itself, and the town needs to speak with the landowner about taking them down.

Long-range projects, which the engineering firm estimates will cost around $250,000, include exposing the upstream face of the spillway structure and masonry walls, repointing masonry to eliminate water seepage, obtaining additional property and removing trees within 20 feet of the dam. It also calls for increasing the spillway capacity and developing an alternate spillway in case of an emergency.

Town Administrator Mary Fitz-Gibbon said grant sources may be available, but that town officials haven’t yet had time to look into that.

Poissant said some of the recommendations have already been taken care of since the September inspection took place. He and Field believe the cost estimates in the report don’t factor in that some of the work needed can be done by the town itself.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or (413) 772-0261, ext. 277

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