Letter: Why the dam should stay
The Jan. 23 My Turn column, “The case for dam removal,” describes the ways in which the Green River, after removal of the Wiley & Russell dam, would provide recreation and education for residents and visitors. It fails to note that these are also the major reason for retaining the dam!
Maintenance costs after repair of the abutments and damaged concrete would not be the recurring expense described. The column also fails to mention the dam’s hydro power potential, a widely recognized new green power source.
The walking trail and tours, historic markers, a viewing platform are planned regardless of retention or removal. But they would be greatly diminished by absence of the central exhibit — the dam, which holds a unique lesson from its wood species and design to its long use.
The Green River Industrial Area, including the Museum of Our Industrial Heritage, is envisioned as an outdoor recreation and teaching tool and it would attract visitors to the downtown. The dam is its central exhibit and attraction. Would hundreds of visitors visit Lowell if the water power structures were removed? The writers forget that museums are educational institutions that exist to preserve and interpret objects and outdoor museums, in particular, depend on all the parts of its large objects and landscapes to verify its lesson. These lessons include: Why did John Russell site it there, rather than in another spot? It also includes lessons on stonework, the use of specific wood species and timber crib design.
Few of these historic structures survive and we are just now learning from and about them.
This is also why Old Sturbridge Village is today gathering funds to repair and modify its dam for hydro power after more than 40 years powering its grist and carding mills. OSV says it will save the museum money and add a teaching exhibit.
In addition to preservation of the existing ecosystem, other very serious reasons compel dam retention, including preserving water quality, protection of the Green River Cemetery and of homes on the river bank’s highly erodible soils along this meltwater stream. It’s a matter of location. No dam removals in similarly developed town centers with highly erodible soils are known.
Tower Hill Consultants