A committee leading Natick’s examination of what actions to take regarding the future of the South Natick Dam will share a report with the Select Board on Wednesday about what’s been done so far and what the timeline looks like over the next few months.
The Charles River Dam Advisory Committee, formed about a year ago and consisting of town officials as well as interested members of the general public, plans to make a recommendation regarding the 1934 dam in August.
The town has been engaged with the public and environmental experts in a seemingly nonstop series of meetings, site visits, and surveys over the past year. They’re trying to figure out whether the iconic spillway (aka, waterfall) needs to be removed to protect the town from liability if it were to fail, and if it should be removed to return the river to a more natural state. Sure, it probably won’t be as nice a place for wedding pictures, but couples can always go over to other picturesque spots in town like the… Golden Triangle.
Those giant trees atop the earthen dam next to the spillway snuck up on the town over the years, and after receiving multiple negative reports from the state about the dam, Natick readied in 2019 to repair the structure after Town Meeting appropriated funds. But in 2020 the town was prompted by local environmental groups and members of the public to look into whether spillway removal might be cheaper for Natick, better for the environment, and provide new recreational opportunities.
The town did look into whether it might be possible to keep the trees atop the dam under any repair scenario, and was told “Nope” by the state’s Office of Dam Safety.
The state’s Division of Ecological Restoration has issued a grant to the town to help it answer some of its remaining questions, including the extent of sediment movement that could affect downriver communities more than Natick (a crew plans to hit the Charles on March 10 to do its surveying—weather and river conditions pending). Curious minds also wonder about a sort of consolation prize for spillway lovers—recreating the sound of falling water via a riffle.
Serious analysis of feedback and data is planned for the next few months, followed by some intense community consultation, and then decision making.