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Dray/My Turn: In defense of the Wiley & Russell Dam

I read the letter to the editor (Recorder Aug. 31) co-signed by three town/regional/national river “authorities.” Official or opinion? That letter makes me scratch my head.

These three “authorities” are trying to justify tearing down our Wiley & Russell Dam at Meridian Street, which is the historic site of Greenfield Tap & Die, an internationally recognized tool manufacturer. The power dams at this site go back continuously over 275 years of Greenfield heritage and growth. Right here!

These dams were the heart of Greenfield’s local Industrial Age. The dams built here powered Greenfield ... for generations. Our Wiley & Russell Dam is our hands-on heritage that kids today and grandkids tomorrow should never forget. The dam is part of our community “roots.”

When was the last time you stood beside a big river dam? Stood real close? It’s nature’s sustainable energy power. So impressive, meaningful especially in today’s environment.

Here’s a thought: Move over — Poet’s Seat Tower. This dam can be our newest town icon for community pride, recognition, tourism and energy education. See my sketch above that can help us to visualize, to recognize what we’ve got here. And what to do!

But back to the three river authorities above and their tear-down-the-dam letter. I quote their two objectives:

“To reduce public safety liability” and “to improve river habitat.”

My reactions: Didn’t we read in The Recorder news that the Wiley & Russell Dam is officially classed as a “low-risk liability?” I reread a couple of times to be sure. So, this dam has never been a significant public liability (nor has it ever been a significant expense for upkeep).

Again, from this letter by the same three river authorities. I ask, why do they single out a defense for the sea lamprey eel coming upstream when they remove the dam? I quote their letter, “the sea lamprey is native to this river system” (for fresh water spawning). Also, “The sea lamprey is a parasite (!) only during its ocean dwelling phase,” “a well-balanced New England river system includes lamprey.”

Excuse me, I checked my Webster Dictionary definition for “PARASITE” — a person, plant or animal which lives off others and gives no useful return.” So I say who needs “native” lamprey eels in the Green River when they tear down the dam. This will only perpetuate the annual mating-reproduction cycle of these parasitic lamprey eels. Give me a break, that’s not how you “improve river habitat.” And personally, I just don’t like the idea of diving into our Green River and having those snake-like lamprey eels swimming by my ankles. Yuck! I don’t like eel grass either.

Of course there’s a lot more Greenfield’s past and Greenfield’s future here. Make no mistake — or lost forever. DO NOT let them tear down our heritage, our Wiley & Russell Dam.

Al Dray is a Deerfield resident.

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