“Preserve the Pawtucket Dam” by Fred Faust

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.

5 Responses to “Preserve the Pawtucket Dam” by Fred Faust

  1. deb forgione says:

    Great artiicle, my wish is a web site for “Save the Historic Pawtucket Dam” We now have a drawing that finally shows the compressor house. We were first told it would “only hold a compressor” which we find out now is 2 compressors in a 30 long 20 foot high building ontop of the fish ladders. The view will be obstructed from various points. The view we have of the dam now is unobstructed.

    Thank you for the article and remember that is the site called the “cradle of the industrial revolution” hefty piece of history to preserve for the future

  2. Joan H says:

    Good article. And I totally agree. I have spent some time looking up Enel on the internet and frankly don’t think they can be trusted to tell the entire truth about anything. Their only interest is profit and to blankety blank with our flood areas. They don’t allow the canals to be cleaned as needed, they limt acces to parts of the river with their sudden water releases, they dump trash back into river, etc. My youngest has some beautiful pix of the falls – but those will become a thing of the past if the bladder dam goes up. We need to preserve that piece of Lowell history.

  3. linda says:

    I greatly appreciate Fred Faust’s comments about the Pawtucket Dam since I am also in opposition to the bladder dam. Enel’s plan is all about money. Instead of choosing other options to improve their profits they want to deface Lowell’s historic dam. They have been telling any group that will listen whatever they want to hear. Enel has a very checkered history in Lowell and since they have not delivered on past promises why should anyone believe them now? They want to destroy a National Landmark, put more residents and businesses at risk of flooding all so they can make money? When Lowell flooded in 2006 and 2007 it cost the city more than $400,000. Enel paid nothing and assumes no liability if the bladder dam is installed. Everyone in Lowell pays for flooding even if you were high and dry.

  4. deb forgione says:

    and well said….

    ” 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.

  5. Bob Gagnon says:

    If Enel gets their wish and passes nearly every last drop of water through their turbines there will be hardly any water going over the Falls to look at, but Enel will have greater profits. If the inflatable dam gets approved and the BIG generator house is built on the Pawtucket Falls blocking views of the Falls we may have to rename the Pawtucket Falls, we could call it the Pawtucket Hydroelectric Project. What worries my neighbors most is that the inflatable will strive to keep the river full nearly all the time, and we will flood more. Enel says the inflatable will allow them to control the river better, thats the problem, Enen had greater control in 06 an 07, the higher stronger flashboards did not drain the river during high flows, profits were increased and we flooded bad. The inflatable will not drain the river fully like downed flashboards and we will have more flooding. We want mother nature to control the flashboards, not a billion dollar corporation who loses money by draining the river. Enel was forced to install weaker flashboards in 08 and this past spring we didn’t flood when the flashboards did bend, although many of our neighboring towns and cities had record flooding, we did not. This springtime draining of the river has offered us flood protection for over a hundred years.

    Thanks, Bob Gagnon 136 Townsend Ave.