High-Hazard dams inspected in Westfield

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – There are hundreds of high hazard dams in Massachusetts in need of repair. 22News got an up close look at two of those dams in Westfield.

These dams were built to save lives. The ones we saw on Tuesday, were built more than 50 years ago. 22News went along for an inspection of the Arm Brook and Powder Mill Dams. Both are high hazard dams and in need of repair.

“The dams we’re looking at today (Tuesday) are high hazard dams. If something happened to this dam (Arm Brook) and the one we’re going to look at next (Powder Mill) there would be potential loss of life and property. That’s why they were put in here in the first place, flood prevention, flood control,” said Laurence Boutiette with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

22News was there when federal and state inspectors toured the Arm Brook and Powder Mill Dams in Westfield. The dams are structurally inspected annually, but this “visual inspection” could help extend the dams’ lives and save the city money in the long-run.

City Councilor Mary Ann Babinski went on this tour and believes it will provide some short and long-term answers.

“What kind of things we can do to remedy it to make sure that its safe and its going to do what its intended to do,” said Councilor Babinski.

One issue they’re discussing is trying to get rid of some of these weeds and have actual grass here, it actually helps prevent erosion.  

“Grass is better because it has a tighter structure, grass grows closer together and they reduce the potential for erosion in the soil,” said James Lyons, Civil Engineer with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

One of the largest man-made issues the inspectors noticed was at the Powder Mill Dam. This dam is supposed to be level, instead it’s has several feet of erosion due to off road vehicles or ATV’s that aren’t allowed to be used at the dam.

Westfield is in the pipeline for federal money down the road. The government would pay 65 percent of any needed fixes, the city would be on the hook for 35 percent. Both dams are in satisfactory condition as far as their structures go.

The inspectors from Tuesday will provide the Flood Control Commission a report with recommendations.