By John Lee Grant
Flooding in Vermont has brought the issue of removing Haverhill’s Little River dam into the spotlight
Speaking at a meeting of the Haverhill Conservation Commission on Thursday, Chairman Frederick J. Clark IV pointed to the flooding damage in Vermont and how eliminating the dam could help protect property owners if that situation should happen here.
“The things that are happening in Vermont right now are very real changes that are happening with the climate and this is one step to help mitigate that. Leaving the dam only increases the results that you see in Vermont. Impeding that water from flowing naturally when you need it to is going to create a bigger problem. So, we’re taking a step here in the right direction,” he said.
It has been more than three years since a proposal was made to eliminate Little River Dam near Lafayette Square. Since then, there have been several public forums discussing the plan with residents, particularly abutters, concerned about the impact it would have on fish and other wildlife as well as nearby property.
Julianne Busa, senior project manager with Fuss & O’Neil, the company working on the project, spoke with members of commissioners about those issues, noting a number of dams across the state have undergone removal with no ill effects on the environment. She said while some species may change, overall it should be a positive move not only for the local habitat but also for the people who enjoy using the waterway.
“We’re also looking to increase river access and provide additional ways for people to get to the river, interact with the river, utilize the river and create some public greenspace and increased tree cover in the downtown area,” she explained.
Busa said plans include a canoe and kayak launch area, a pedestrian bridge, a fishing area with stone seating and a river-front trail network.
After listening to public comments, commissioners decided to take an investigatory walk along the river before passing any recommendations at their next meeting on Aug. 3.
Although a date for that walk has not yet been set, commissioners said they will begin at Cashman Park around 4 p.m. and members of the public are invited to join them.