An Open Letter from The Friends of the Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir and Dam

The Friends of the Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir and Dam released this letter today:

September 30, 2010

Dear Councilors and DPW,

We are at a loss to understand why the City continues to pursue removal of the Upper Roberts Dam when there are other options estimated to cost less than half as much; have a much lower risk of construction cost overruns; and are more environmentally responsible.

The City of Northampton is clearly at a crossroads with multiple infrastructure needs and only one MEMA grant possible. It is imperative that the City choose the correct path for its residents by withdrawing the MEMA grant application for the Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir Dam and requesting instead, that these funds be directed to the immediate repair of River Road.

The City’s decision to remove the Upper Roberts Dam appears to be based on a long-term cost comparison of alternatives to repair and remove the dam. GZA estimates the long-term cost of the two alternatives to be $1,893,412 for Full Rehabilitation and $1,200,000 for Removal. If the dam were reclassified to a lower hazard potential, however, the scope of repair work would be drastically reduced. Using costs from GZA’s itemized estimates, the long-term cost to rehabilitate the dam to the requirements for a lower hazard classification are estimated to be $566,453; less than a third of the cost of Full Rehabilitation and less than half the cost of Removal. Further, the risk of construction cost overruns are likely to be much less for the lower hazard rehabilitation alternative. This is significant because the City would be responsible for any cost overruns. [See PDF with detailed cost comparison]

The Friends believe pursuing reclassification of the Upper Roberts Dam hazard classification to be a more cost effective and environmentally responsible alternative. This view is supported by industry experts, including The Essex Partnership [click for PDF of 8/27/10 letter from Essex]. It is unfortunate that the reclassification alternative was ignored in the recent third party review. Therefore, the Friends, at their own expense, will retain a consulting firm specializing in dam safety to perform an independent review of the Upper Roberts Dam to specifically assess the subject of hazard reclassification.


Dee Boyle-Clapp, President
The Friends of the Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir and Dam

cc: City Council
Mayor Higgins
Ned Huntley, E.D. of DPW
Terry Culhane, Chair of BPW
Daily Hampshire Gazette
Springfield Republican
Northampton Media
NorthStreet Association

See also:

Video: Dee Boyle-Clapp Rebuts Arguments for Removing the Chesterfield Road Dam

Website: Save the Chesterfield Road Dam 

The Republican: “Saving the Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir Dam in Northampton not economically feasible, consulting engineer says” (9/29/10)
Tighe & Bond, Inc. of Westfield recently sent the city its analysis of two reports on the dam, one by GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc. commissioned by the city, the other by Essex Partnership, which was hired by the Friends of the Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir Dam, a group dedicated to saving the 127-year-old structure on Chesterfield Road. According to the Tighe & Bond study, Essex severely underestimated the cost of installing a turbine that would generate electricity that could be used to pay some of the costs of preserving the structure. At the same time, it overestimated the amount of revenue the turbine would generate through hydro-power…

Dee Boyle-Clapp, a member of the Friends, said the Tighe & Bond report was not comprehensive because it failed to take into account new information supplied by the group. The Friends contends that the hydro-turbine would obviate the need for dredging the small reservoir behind the dam, the most expensive part of the maintenance. Boyle-Clapp believes the group can easily raise funds to pay the annual cost, minus that factor. 

Northampton Media: “Engineers to City: Dam Not Hydro-Logical” (9/28/10)
[Download a PDF of the Tighe & Bond analysis]

Gazette guest column: “The case for the Leeds dam” (8/26/10)

Video of 9/2/10 City Council Meeting  

Video: City Council Meeting of 8/19/10; Upper Roberts Meadow Dam; Extended Producer Responsibility

LaBarge, Spector and Tacy Propose Resolution to Preserve Upper Roberts Meadow Dam (8/13/10)

Video Highlights: BPW on the Dam, Landfill (6/30/10)

Gazette: “Advocates dig in to save Northampton dam” (6/30/10)

Video: Board of Public Works Not Keen to Save Chesterfield Road Dam (6/12/10)