The Charles River Dam Advisory Committee plans to finalize its recommendation report on Sept. 7 for consideration by the Natick Select Board. The vast majority of committee members have already indicated they favor removing the spillway (aka, waterfall) at the iconic dam site rather than investing in dam and spillway repair.
Review the agenda and online meeting access information. A 15-minute public speak section is slated toward the end of the meeting, after the committee has voted on the report. Comments can be emailed by 10am on Sept. 6 as well to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The committee was tasked with coming up with a recommendation for the dam and spillway’s fate in light of dangers posed by the dam’s current condition, per state inspections. Town officials have said removal will be less expensive than repair, and environmental and cultural arguments from those within and outside of Natick have swayed many committee members to favor removal. A couple of members, concerned with the impact spillway removal will have on water levels and river usage by humans, favor keeping the spillway, and a group of local residents and businesses have campaigned to Save Natick Dam for its aesthetic and historic appeal, among other reasons.
(Disclaimer: We are river neighbors.)
At its last meeting, on July 26, the Advisory Committee began the process of developing its recommendation and established a subgroup to start drafting the report. While the Committee has expressed its support to remove the spillway, concerns remained about how this might play out in terms of how the parkland around the river would be redeveloped in an accessible and attractive way. Committee member Terri Evans, who could not attend the July 26 meeting, shared in writing to fellow members that “it is vital that the section accompanying our advice…include in the clearest and strongest language the imperative that the Select Board plan for and identify funding for landscaping and amenities that are outside the scope of the dam project itself.”
Committee member Aaron Spelker said: “My very large concern is we’re going to do this project and nothing’s going to be mentioned of a range of costs for development of the parkland around it… I want that at the forefront because I don’t want it to be a surprise later or have it be shortchanged on the back end, which would really do an injustice to this space.”
Mike Balcom, a committee member, said during the July 26 meeting: “How in the language do we really not just connect these concepts of spillway removal and park development, but they are one. My recommendation does not exist, one without the other…”
Once the committee firms up its report and delivers it to the Select Board, members of the committee will also present the report to other committees and boards in town.
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