The Bulletin Board

Executive Council approves $35 million to repair unsafe dams

By: - June 2, 2022 12:10 pm

The Executive Council on Wednesday approved $35 million in coronavirus relief funds for dam repairs. (New Hampshire Bulletin)

Of the 2,617 active dams in New Hampshire, 169 are classified as high hazard, which means their failure would likely result in human deaths, according to the Department of Environmental Services. Some of those will be repaired with $35 million in coronavirus relief funds approved Wednesday by the Executive Council.

The department plans to use $30 million to repair about 10 state-owned dams throughout New Hampshire, including the Avery Dam in Laconia, Goose Pond Dam in Canaan, and Little Bog Dam in Odell.

The remaining $5 million would go to dams owned by local governments, according to the department’s request for funding. The department would also create four new jobs to help implement the program, which is projected to last until 2026, the deadline for spending ARPA money.

“Every year we do a little work on some (dams), but now we’re going to really accelerate it,” Gov. Chris Sununu said about the funding at a press event Wednesday. He pointed to the 2005 flood in Alstead, which killed four people, and prompted the state to assess its dams.

The federal funding will exceed state spending that has gone toward improving dams.

As many dams have aged beyond their expected lifespan, there has also been a push by environmental groups to remove those that are no longer useful and disrupt the natural flow of rivers. Groups such as the Conservation Law Foundation and The Nature Conservancy have pushed for dam removal as a measure to make ecosystems more resilient to climate change, allowing the landscape to better absorb heavy rain, as projections indicate intense storms will become more common.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.