Where’d the water go? During the Spring of 2017, the Mill Road Dam in Brentwood opened, lowering water levels in a long standing embankment to historic lows. The draining of the embankment affected dozens of Fremont residents with waterfront property and dozens more that depended on the embankment for well water. This prompted the property owner, Brentwood Dam Ventures LLC, to hold a meeting with the affected abutters at the law offices of their attorney in Portsmouth to discuss the owner's future plans for the dam. The attorney representing Brentwood Dam Ventures LLC expressed the owner's intent to move quickly to either sell the dam or work with New Hampshire officials to have it removed.
In the wake of the Mill Road Dam’s failure, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ (NHDES) Dam Bureau began a comprehensive inspection process. The inspections found that the dam’s hazard classification should be raised from that of a “low hazard” to a “significant hazard”. The inspections culminated with the issuing of a Letter of Deficiency to the dam owners.
The Letter of Deficiency has hastened the timeline in which the owners must make actionable decisions. The affected abutters concerned with the potential dam removal, worried about their dug wells, septic systems, property values as well as their loss of the river’s recreational uses, have recently banded together to form the Fremont-Exeter River Dam Association (FERDA). The objective of FERDA is to maintain the former impoundment water level in the most cost-effective way.
Amidst this process the Exeter-Squamscott River Local Advisory Committee (ESRLAC), a group focused on the Exeter River watersheds, agreed to work collaboratively with UMass Boston’s Graduate Program in Planning and Community Development. This joint effort is called the Exeter-Squamscott River Educational Partnership (ESREP). ESREP is committed to providing local residents, property owners, institutional leaders, elected and appointed officials with timely information that is publicly available regarding the current state and future options. The groups will jointly host a public educational forum on September 27th. This public educational forum will be an evening of non-partisan discussion covering the pros and cons of dam preservation and removal with NH’s most highly-regarded experts. On September 9th, the graduate students from UMass Boston will be canvassing the affected neighborhoods, specifically in the Riverside area, to gather survey information so that the educational meeting will offer the right experts based on the current concerns expressed by local residents.