Watershed Association Takes on Wrentham Neighborhood


Above, a "tour" of Eagle Dam in Wrentham. At center,  CRWA experts, Deputy Director of Advocacy, Jennifer Ryan and (pointing) Lis Kumpf, River Science & Restoration Program Manager.
A multi-person team from the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) came to Wrentham’s Eagle Dam on Saturday. Their promotional stated: “Did you know we’re exploring the removal of Wrentham’s Eagle Dam? Eagle Dam is a small, derelict dam on Eagle Brook, a tributary of the Charles River. Join us for a tour of the site to learn about opportunities to restore fish passage, improve recreation, and protect downstream areas from flooding.”

Counting the CRWA team and two employees of the town of Wrentham who came in support of CRWA, about 25 people attended in total. One couple hailed from Natick where the Select board just took the CRWA pitch and signed the death warrant for the historic South Natick Dam. The pair expressed surprise and frustration with that outcome.

Lisa Kumpf, River Science & Restoration Program Manager, did most of the talking for CRWA on Saturday, despite hoarseness from a cold.

The pitch was a familiar one. Dams could fail (a Wrentham employee chimed in to assert that a “failure” of the dam would knock out the gas and electric infrastructure of the town and close Route 140, though did not explain how this conclusion was reached) and they are expensive to repair.

But it just so happens state aid is available to completely remove dams, more or less at no cost to the locals! {Repeated questions to the presenters regarding what would happen to the box turtles, snapping turtle, fish, heron and eagle, that live in the ecosystem when the dam is gone were ignored.}

Needless to say, homeowners like Joel D’Errico (former Franklin town councilor) with properties on Eagle Lake disagreed with the whole premise and cited engineering studies showing a removal of the dam would reduce flow from the nearby town well by 30 percent. Furthermore, he and others noted that the dam has the lowest “dangerousness” rating that a structure can have, meaning, they said, that it could go on for decades and is not likely to sustain a sudden, catastrophic failure.

The tit-for-tat arguments continued with disagreements on almost every point. A Weston & Samson consultant said, somewhat obscurely, that the results from the first study performed for the town and/or CRWA were inconclusive, as was a second, a third is underway, presumably the third time will be the charm.

Just as the meeting was about to break up, CRWA introduced a representative from the region’s indigenous peoples who spoke in mystical terms about rivers being the ‘veins’ of the earth. “A dam is like a blood clot.” he asserted. He said he had lived in California, (which is almost entirely dependent on dams for its water supply). Dams in California are bad, he asserted, shaking his head.

Still pending is CRWA’s move to removed the Sanford Mill Dam on the Franklin-Medway border. Local activists, concerned about CRWA’s aggressive actions, succeeded in removing language from Medway’s Master Plan (no one seems to know how it got there in the first place) that included dam removal as a goal.

CRWA also recently released an ambitious lobbying and legislation plan for 2023. Watch for future headlines.

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