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Mass. Plans to Remove More Dams Amid Climate Concerns

More communities in Massachusetts are getting money from the state to start the process of removing local dams that officials say pose hazards to both humans and wildlife.

Gov. Maura Healey’s administration announced yesterday that they’ll award $50,000 each to seven municipalities to start planning the removals. It’s part of a growing effort to demolish aging dams across Massachusetts and New England.

Massachusetts has over 3,000 dams, “most of which no longer serve their original purpose,” according to state officials. And as climate-induced storms intensify, many dams are increasingly at risk to fail and cause dangerous flooding. Hundreds have been identified as potential hazards.

“We saw this summer the devastation that can be caused when aging infrastructure gets overwhelmed by extreme weather,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper said, referring to the unprecedented flooding in Leominster. (On another note, obsolete dams can also disrupt the migration of cold-water fish.)

The seven dams newly pegged for removal range from a North Andover dam that is upstream of an MBTA commuter rail line to western Massachusetts dams that officials say could flood local towns. (You can read the full list here.) The funding comes after Healey’s office announced a $25 million project for the removal of another eight dams this month, including the historic Bel Air Dam near downtown Pittsfield. Officials say the actual removal of those dams is still at least a year or two away.

Some worry a year or two isn’t fast enough, given the danger of near-term storms. But as WBUR’s Walter Wuthmann reported last year, the state has a “backlog” of dam removal projects that need funding.

Source: WBUR