The other day it was people from Lawrence weighing-in on the Enel North America plan to regulate the flow of water over the historic Pawtucket Falls with a pneumatic crest gate, or “inflatable bladder,” installation system on the Pawtucket Dam. As noted in Jen Myers story in Monday’s Lowell Sun here – two years ago, Enel installed crest gates at the Great Stone Dam in Lawrence, a 162-year-old hydropower dam, with no controversy. Rather than opposition it was “bouquets and flowers.” Even those purporting to represent Lawrence history sided with Enel – scoffingly noting that “the Stone Dam wasn’t an artifact. ”
Tonight according to a story in today’s Nashua Telegram written by David Brooks and available here – there will be a hearing in Nashua on the Lowell dam proposal. As with the SUN story the position, the reasoning and spin of Enel North America – the subsidiary of a global company – is well represented with extensive quotes from General Manager Victor Engel and addtionally from consultant Bob LaRochelle in the SUN piece. To the SUN “Engel concedes that his company’s relationship with Lowell is a little more rocky than with Lawrence.”
The Lowell City Council responding to “upstream” neighborhood concerns about raised river levels endangering their homes voted against the bladder proposal. Prior approval is need by a number of Lowell city commissions before the project can move forward. Leading the opposition is the Lowell National Historical Park. Superintendent Michael Creasey recently wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Board of Energy & Environmental Affairs noting that the plan “eliminates an essential feature characterizing the historic dam” and would “substantially change the historic appearance and functionality of this National Historic Landmark.” If you’ve taken the Lowell Mill and Canal Tour you know that the park uses the many canals in and around the dam as part of its water tours of the popular park which details the city’s Industrial Revolution past. The park is vested historically and financially in the Lowell story – and the Merrimack River and the Canalways are key to the story. Many local groups concerned with history and preservation have also voiced concerns over the project.
So residents of Nashua and that part of Southern New Hampshire get to join the conversation tonight. Read both articles and stay tuned for more about the dam project. I was up by the Pawtucket Falls and Dam today – and the new flashing is looking pretty good!