With the town’s decision made earlier this month to remove the spillway at the Charles River dam, Natick is now quickly taking next steps.
During the Natick Conservation Commission‘s Nov. 17 meeting (just before the 20-minute mark of the Natick Pegasus recording), town planner/conservation agent Claire Rundelli shared an update while repeating the town mantra of this being “just the start of a very long process”—no intentional breaching of the spillway for at least 5 years.
What the town will focus on, she says, is “hefty permitting” from a smorgasbord of organizations from the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Massachusetts Historic Commission.
Natick has reached out to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection about additional sediment testing to doublecheck whether the preliminary testing done by a couple of consulting firms (GZA and Stantec) was sufficient. Dam defenders in recent months had questioned whether enough testing was done before the town made its decision for spillway removal.
Rundelli told Conservation Commission members that “a key part of the Select Board’s decision was that if something comes up in the environmental or other analyses that need to be done prior to any work being completed, that there is the definite possibility that this project may pivot to a different scenario…If we were to hit soil testing that was crazy unexpected high contaminant levels, totally not releasable, the cost of dredging and disposing of that as hazardous waste would likely make this project sort of a non-starter.”
(All of which reminds me of the sign at the dam warning pregnant people not to consume fish caught there—if they aren’t eating it, neither am I. Disclaimer: We’re river neighbors.)
Also in the plans, a possible sediment release as part of the breach process—it won’t be as simple as just sending any unwanted junk backed up behind the spillway down river to Wellesley, Dover, and Needham.
Natick has also been in touch with consultant GZA about scoping out design and permitting work.
“While they are generally known as the dam repair folks, they have done a number of dam removal projects throughout the state…,” including a similar 1 to the South Natick dam, Rundelli said.
Natick may need to hit up Town Meeting for funds to support its dam removal work, though the town plans to be aggressive in pursuing grants. Among them, a big dam and seawall removal grant program expected to open by year-end and that could provide key design and permitting funds.