Fred Faust shares his reasons for why the Pawtucket Dam shall be preserved:
The current conflict between preserving the historic dam at the Pawtucket Falls versus topping it off with a concrete and rubber bladder dam really comes down to this – our nation’s history as opposed to greater profits for an absentee multi-national corporation.
In 1978, I bill worked with Paul Tsongas and Dr. Patrick Mogan to write the Lowell National Historical Park bill. After years of work, Congress recognized in Lowell a unique set of historic resources and story of working people. The dam and the waterpower produced at this location in the river is the reason that Lowell exists. The structure that powered Lowell and the Industrial Revolution is now a National Landmark.
Now comes the Enel Corporation, an absentee landlord that has failed to play any type of constructive role in the Lowell community. Yet to Enel, an Italian company with 2009 profits of $7.1 billion, our National Park and historic dam are just an inconvenience hardly worth a dialogue or serious discussion with the agency Congress charged with its preservation. Enel’s strategy is to use their money to hire well connected lobbyists, orchestrate ad campaigns, and to make contributions in return for support. Many of their arguments leave us scratching our heads. This includes reasoning such as that the upriver side of the dam, which is typically under water, will not be visible. Another is that adding concrete and rubber caps will better preserve this historic stone structure. I’m sorry, but that’s like saying that we should fill in the Grand Canyon so it can’t be eroded by the Colorado River.
There is also a serious question of whether maintaining higher levels of water will increase the serious flooding upriver that has plagued Pawtucketville residents. This has led to opposition by the Pawtucketville Citizen’s Council, City of Lowell, Town of Tyngsborough and even Lowell’s Green Building Commission, which has a high interest in promoting alternative energy generation.
The Lowell Sun’s reports on this story were shockingly one-sided from the beginning. For the Sun, a long time supporter of Lowell’s revitalization, this embarrassing bias now extends to its editorial page as well. We can only hope that this is not linked to the political connections of Enel’s consultants or the thousands of dollars received from repeated advertisements.
Enel in its advertising has painted a fantasy version of their contributions to Lowell, which at best have been anonymous and worse do not exist. Part of their campaign for the dam is to quote their positive role in our sister city, Lawrence. I have visited the Lawrence dam and viewed Enel’s rubber bladder installation. It is very visible – as is the damage to the stone dam from the installation. At this time of year, it is also not unusual to see Lawrence’s bladder dam actually keep water from going over a good part of the dam at all. How historic would the Pawtucket Falls be in Lowell with little or no falls at all?
A more informed view of Enel in Lawrence can be found in a recent MIT report, “Taking Back Lawrence,” which examined how to build a coalition to improve the conditions of the canals and alleys in that city, stating: “All of the key players in Lawrence seem to be in place and have been doing their part to pursue this shared vision except for one: Enel’s Essex Company.” The report cited a complete lack of canal maintenance, abundant trash and a fully unresponsive owner in Enel.
The integrity of Lowell National Historical Park that Paul Tsongas and Patrick Mogan bequeathed to us should not be sold out to the highest bidder. Preserve our falls. Preserve our history.