Maintenance inspections to follow dam drawdowns

PETERBOROUGH — Drawdowns of the water behind the North Village Dam should only reduce the flow of the Contoocook River for about two weeks, according to Public Works Director Rodney Bartlett, while the drawdown at the Transcript Dam downtown should only impact the river for three or four days.

Speaking at a informational meeting on Tuesday about the proposed drawdowns, Bartlett said recent rainy weather has delayed the project, but he expects that the stop logs at the top of the two dams will be removed in late July. It will take a day or two for the water levels behind the dams to drop to the point where they can be inspected for structural soundness.

“The drawdown will be relatively temporary,” Bartlett said. He will be talking with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which runs the MacDowell Lake reservoir, about having them back up extra water that can be released to quickly refill the river once the inspections are done.

Bartlett said the North Village Dam, which is near the intersection of Routes 202 and 136, hasn’t been inspected for at least 30 years. He said if structural problems are found, the town would hold hearings about what repairs might be needed and how much they would cost. At this time, there are no plans to breach the North Village Dam, Bartlett said.

The Transcript Dam, which is downtown near the Main Street bridge, dates back to the early 1800s, Bartlett said. It’s a small dam that is no longer inspected by the N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services, and the water behind it is only about two feet deep.

Bartlett said water leaks through the dam on the sides and there is an underground sluiceway that drains into the river near the dam. “There are a lot of issues,” Bartlett said. “Depending on what we find, there will be a discussion. Do we repair it or do we breach it?”

If a decision is make to repair the Transcript Dam, the work would be done in conjunction with rebuilding of the Main Street Bridge, a project that is still being studied and has not been scheduled.

In response to a question from one of the few people who attended the meeting, Bartlett said no one has approached the town about the possibility of building a low-impact hydropower facility at either dam site. He said the Transcript Dam wouldn’t be suitable, but the North Village Dam could possibly be used to generate power. Bartlett said the town’s chief focus regarding renewable energy at the moment is on the proposed solar array to generate electricity at the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

Bartlett said residents would get advance word of the date of the drawdowns through notices on the town’s website and through the newspaper.

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