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Dam conditions are examined; Selectmen not ready for `panic button'.

Byline: John Weeks

CLINTON - The Board of Selectmen will be keeping a close eye on the series of dams at the Wekepeke Reservoir.

Wednesday night, the board announced it had received a letter from Nestle Waters of North America, formally informing the town that its exploratory arrangement with the company would officially expire in March.

Earlier this year, the board rejected a proposal from the company calling for commercial pumping at the reservoir, which is owned by Clinton, but located in Sterling and Leominster. The proposal ignited a firestorm of criticism, both from residents and officials in Clinton and Sterling. Selectmen had granted Nestle access rights to the property that allowed the company to research the viability of commercial pumping. Those rights, though now moot, are up in March.

Selectman Anthony Fiorentino pointed out that the state had cut $250,000 it had intended to put toward repairs of the dams at the Wekepeke. The project is expected to cost an excess of $1 million. Fiorentino asked if the board should review its options regarding the Wekepeke in light of the state cuts.

"I don't think we should push the panic button," said Selectman Mary Rose Dickhaut.

Selectman James LeBlanc said the state of the dams was not as dire as people may think, thanks to the work of the Department of Public Works (DPW). Chris McGown, superintendent of the DPW, said his crews recently cleared trees from the Lower Lynde dam, repaired its spillway and fixed a void in the dam itself.

"That was our worst dam down there," McGown said. "It was classified as unsafe and now it is in fair condition."

McGown said the other dams at the Wekepeke are in poor condition. They are the Upper Lynde, Heywood, Fitch Basin and Spring Basin dams.

"We started clearing the Heywood dam and then stopped when we found out there would be no money for it," McGown said. "Obviously, there is still work to do on all the dams."

The town has a few options regarding the dams. If it had the money, it could completely renovate the dams, creating new ones. That is highly unlikely. With less money, the town could repair the dams and commit to continued maintenance to keep them in good shape. The town could also drain the area and remove the dams entirely. Removing the dams may cost as much as repairing them, but would then save the town the cost of maintenance.

Even if most of the dams collapsed, there would be very little chance of private property damage from flooding. McGown said only the Heywood dam could lead to problems if it was breached.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 7, 2008
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