Edit: Time and river

Five years ago, the plan to remove several dams on the Green River seemed to have hit a watershed moment.

Greenfield had received several grants to cover designing the removal of the Wiley & Russell Dam near Meridian Street and the Mill Street Dam just upstream, as well as the permits necessary for the work. Removing the two dams was a key, if not the center piece of, the Green River Restoration Project, a vision of restoring the waterway to a natural free-flowing river, one where a number of migratory fish would make their way back upstream to spawn.

Five years ago, we bought into the promise that project held out for greater recreational use, something that would beneficial to Greenfield as a whole since this river is in many ways an untapped resource for the community.

But five years have gone by and the changes that one might have expected didn’t materialize.

But some others did.

For example, removing the Mill Street Dam is now off the table because it was determined that the cost of the work was higher than originally thought. Combined with some unintended consequences, such as exposing water and sewer pipes that the dam helps protect, it was determined almost two years ago that the money would be better spent repairing this dam.

Which leaves the Wiley & Russell Dam.

The town still is intent on taking down this dam.

But an argument is being made that it would be better to preserve this part of Greenfield’s history, an edifice that has been in place since 1836 when it was built to provide power for local factories.

The town says it will cost $300,000 to $350,000, paid for by its partners, to remove and then it will have to spend about $150,000 from the Sewer Enterprise Fund to construct a retaining wall to prevent erosion once the dam is taken down.

In comparison, officials say, the cost associated with saving the Wiley & Russell Dam is at least $1 million.

What also important to see here is that the structure has been classified as a “significant hazard” by the state. Obviously, the plan of restoring the river to its dam-free state has been significantly altered.

The question, then, becomes, should the Wiley & Russell Dam be saved? From a strictly financial standpoint, the answer seems clear since the cost of saving the dam is more than double that of taking it down.

It is up to those wanting to save the dam to find out the answers that make it financially feasible.

We’d also like to see a cogent plan for “restoring a historical fishery,” since taking that one dam still leaves two — Mill Street and the swimming pool — standing, and recent experience on the Connecticut River seems to bring into question the whole idea of returning anadromous fish in any numbers to this valley.

And we’d like to see from all sides a truly realistic plan that will make the Green River a calling card for Greenfield — before another five years goes by.

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