Exeter River Study Committee Provides Facts and Information
4. Selectman Quandt: Fourth, we still have outstanding commitments to the Exeter Mill (the Sherm Chester agreement) and the Academy that have not been resolved yet and probably will not be resolved by Town Meeting.
Selectman Ferraro’s Response: Regarding any commitment to the Mills and the Academy, that also has been addressed at more than one meeting. We will be able to modify the river intake to the Mills within the cost estimates provided in the report, and there is no obligation to the Academy for their river water intake.
I would add: While the Mill intake would be affected by dam removal, the Town is discussing this issue with the Mill owners, Chinburg Properties, who are cooperating with our further analysis, have provided plans of the Mill, and allowed access to the portion of the penstock on the mill property so that we could obtain further survey data. There is a set of possible solutions to this issue, and work continues toward solution.
5. Selectman Quandt: In 2008 we had a warrant article on the ballot to raise $377,000 to study the repair of the dam, after it passed by a majority vote, DES came in and asked the town to hold off on that because they were putting together another plan (I believe that was the one) to tear down the dam, article follows: [omitted]. Maybe it is time to move ahead with this warrant article.
I would add: The work by the River Committee that led to the 2008 warrant article did not include dam removal. The attitude of those involved in the Town’s water supply then was that the dam was necessary for the Town’s water supply. At the end of 2008, the Board of Selectmen, at the request of the Committee, accepted an offer of the State’s Department of Environmental Services to fund fully a study to see if there was an alternative water supply for the Town that would not require the Great Dan. The report showed there was such a water supply, relying on both ground (well) water and surface (river) water, which did not require an impoundment of water by the Great Dam. The Town has since begun to create that alternative approach to it water supply. There was and is no DES plan to remove the dam.
6. Selectman Quandt: We have two issues that we have been debating for weeks; tear down the dam or drain the river. If we want to drain the river and still protect our water supply, then repair the dam and open the gate, which will drain the river and should have a positive effect on high water issues and flooding. If we need the additional water, and I think we will, we close the gate and the river fills back up.
Selectman Clement’s Response: Finally, the river is not a bathtub. Removing the dam will not drain the river. True it will be somewhat shallower and narrower as far up to Court Street, but the same amount of water that flows through it today will flow through it without a dam.
I would add: The Committee’s report clearly illustrates that the current gate cannot be used to effectively manage upstream flooding - especially for serious floods. It is simply too small, and does not have enough discharge capacity. When the river flows are high enough to cause upstream flooding, the existing low-level outlet is effectively “invisible” - it really does not matter if it is open or not - because its capacity is so small relative to the amount of water in the river during a flood. The gate is not intended to function for flood control - it is to allow the operator to drawdown the impoundment to make repairs under low or normal flow conditions.
This letter certainly does not address all the critical issues and concerns. Before the Town votes on 11 March, there will be several more public meetings, site tours including a number of other ways to gain information. On front page of the Town’s website is a link to the report, itself, and supporting information. I hope each voter uses these to inform themselves and then to decide how to vote. Email- email@example.com.
Frank Patterson, Exeter
Member –Exeter River Study Committee
(Editor’s Note: This letter is the second of a two-part series to address the concerns raised at a recent meeting.)