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Those Damn Dams Sometimes Aren't Worth the Trouble!

When Emily Norton, the always ambitious Executive Director of the Charles River Watershed Association, first mentioned the possibility of removing the South Natick Dam a few years ago I thought she was biting off more than she could chew.  

It isn't that I don't appreciate the ecological benefits of dam removal from my years with The Nature Conservancy, or that I don't appreciate the maintenance and potential liability challenges of dam ownership from my representation of dam owners.  I do.  But I grew up near the South Natick Dam and used to pass it every day on my way to and from school.  It is most certainly one of the most special landmarks in the Home of Champions.  Like most of the people quoted in WGBH's reporting, I am sad to see it go.

As painful as it may be, nostalgia needs to take a back seat to science.  And it is a scientific fact that dams interfere with riverine ecosystems.  And it is a scientific fact that our Greenhouse Gas supercharged climate has increased the threat of flooding which in turn substantially increases the risk presented by antiquated dams like this one.  We've all seen the devastation resulting from the collapse of a dam. Especially where Federal assistance is available to address this risk, the correct answer is plain to see.

But I'll be taking a sandwich from Corrado's in Natick Center and saying a proper good bye.

The Natick dam is like a hundred other dams in Massachusetts, according to a 2011 state audit. They’re owned by towns, they’re in poor or unsafe condition — and if they fail, they could cause loss of life or major property damage. There have been 67 dam removals in Massachusetts since 1999, accelerating in recent years. Removal remains an uncommon feat, but those dozens of projects offer Nick Wildman and his colleagues at the state’s Division of Ecological Restoration a stack of case studies when they consult with towns.

https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2022/07/11/the-fight-to-undam-the-charles-river-comes-to-natick

©1994-2022 Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 193
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About this Author

Jeffrey R. Porter, Environmental Attorney, Mintz Levin, Risk Analysis Lawyer
Member

Jeff leads the firm’s Environmental Law Practice. He is also a member of the firm’s Policy Committee. For 23 years, he has advised clients regarding complex environmental regulatory compliance and permitting issues, including issues relating to air and water discharges and hazardous waste storage and disposal. In 2011 and 2012, the firm received the Acquisition International Legal Award for “US Environmental Law Firm of the Year.” The awards celebrate excellence and reward firms, teams and individuals for their contribution to client service, innovation and commitment to quality.

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617-348-1711
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