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Smash all the dams: Group calls for removal of all the dams on the Charles from Watertown upriver

The Charles River Watershed Association makes the case for removing dams along the river, starting with the one in Watertown, which long ago ceased to fulfill its original function of powering a grist mill and which now is in bad shape , a fish-species destroyer and a general menace in the event of a major storm.

Watertown Dam Removal Feasibility Study.

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Comments

Restoring watersheds is essential to climate change mitigation.

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Voting closed 50

Other than budget objections, seems like no-one would oppose this idea. I don't think the area upstream of the dam is some recreational treasure like the Charles River basin by the Esplanade, right?

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Lots of people, myself included, would love to be able to kayak further up/down the Charles.

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Voting closed 43

Paddle Boston, also known as Charles River Canoe & Kayak, has two rental locations in Newton and one in Waltham. Newton also has Community Rowing.

(And why would you say that this area is *not* a "recreational treasure" ?)

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Voting closed 18

You can kayak in any section but the dams prevent someone from going all the way up/down the river without a portage.

And I (BostonDog) never said the area wasn't a recreational treasure! There's no section which isn't scenic and enjoyable at this point. (At least on the water's surface.)

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Voting closed 38

I meant, there's not some pond/lake area created by the dam which would be impacted by the removal. The level of recreational opportunity would not be decreased at all.

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because removing the Moody Street dam would drastically change the character of Waltham and Auburndale.

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Voting closed 13

And then there is voyaging.

Sure, its wet, you can paddle on it - but I remember long rowing training sessions on the Charles during spring break that had to turn around behind the Watertown Mall because the river was not navigable beyond that due to these ancient dams.

Kind of the difference between riding a bike on the Minuteman between Arlington and Lexington, and doing a century ride.

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Voting closed 10

You are a snob!

What is canoeing by Cutler Park in Needham or up along the Charles on Trustees owned banks in Mills, Dover, and Medfield? Is it trash?

What a snotass Bostoncentric view of an environmental treasure that goes miles and miles up from the basin. JFC.

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Voting closed 17

Dams can fulfill many functions (hydro generation, mill operation, flood control, etc.), but on a river like the Charles, where mills have ceased to operate and the dams have fallen into disrepair, the only function remaining for most dams is for recreation in the upstream ponds. In some New England rivers, the upstream recreation is a pretty big deal, because the dams create significant lakes, and so sometimes you get strong opposition to dam removal for that reason: no dam, no more lake. That's not the case here. With a low gradient river like the Charles, canoeing in this stretch would be enhanced by dam removal rather than degraded or eliminated.

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Voting closed 41

Bring your wet shoes because you won't be moving much in the boat.

Stream flows are going to massively decreased. The Charles was nearly dry between the Waltham dam and the Watertown dam in 2012 after June.

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The dams were one of the reasons that the Charles gets segmented in drought years. I sat on the drought task force in 2016 - the river reports referenced the dams as a problem.

There is also the danger of failure of the dams in very wet years because they aren't functional, as well as flooding if they get jammed with ice/debris.

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To a first approximation, dams don't change overall *flows*, they change *levels*.

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But go off. I'd better I'm in Cutler Park more than you are.

Do you literally spend the day trying to find stuff to be mad about online? What a miserable life.

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So, removals of dams is great. It is working on the Neponset. It is working along the South Shore on the North River and its tributaries.

Hell, let's remove the Charles River Dam so all our Cambridge, Back Bay, and Allston people can deal with tidal surges. That is part of watershed restoration too.

Nevertheless (and I know the Charles River Dam keeps pilings in East Cambridge and the Back Bay at a certain water level), but if you are are all for going back to nature, let's everyone deal with the problem.

If the Charles went back to tidal, traffic cones could be picked up without the need for divers. Just walk out at low tide.

Share the environmental burden Cambridge and Back Bay! After all, you are part of the Charles River watershed. Hurray!

PS - There might be some disinformation in that attached presentation. Baker Chocolate was always a Lower Mills company. They were never in Watertown. Some grad student must be messing up their dams. Hey - Emily Norton, instead of going around spreading lies about other political candidates, perhaps you should fact check your organizations work first.

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Voting closed 12

That entire website/presentation and your complaint is they misplaced one fucking company in an example? And that's if we are assuming you're right that Baker Chocolate never had any Watertown involvement?

Kudos. You're that guy. You're probably fun at civic meetings.

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Voting closed 68

Why don't the rich and the universities have to share the burden?

If one of the dams in Newton north of the Marriott gets removed, the public looses the ability to canoe on the river since the Charles goes to steam status in the summer without the dams, yet MIT, BU, Harvard, and other schools get to have sailing boats on the placid Charles with their below market leases for waterfront space.

Calm down. I said the removals of dams is great, but somehow the wealthy and connected still get to have their artificial tidal basin. Read harder. Understand better. It will help you.

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Voting closed 10

"Fuck the world, I want to canoe"? Really?

If the quality of your life is dependent on a 100-year-old cement dam...damn, son.

And "why do they get nice things"? Really?

I mean it's never usually below 50 in Florida...what gives? We shouldn't go green. Why do the Southerners get all the warm winters and we don't up here?

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Voting closed 35

You really seem to be reaching for a counter argument. Is it up too high for you?

Look at what I said "Dam removals are good" I guess you didn't see that. My optometrist is a great guy. He's a ManU fan, but we all have our flaws. Do you want me to set up an appointment with him for you?

However, if we are going to go with true watershed restoration, the Charles River Dam by the MOS has to factor into the equation as well as wetland restoration upstream.

And yes, really, why does Harvard get two boathouses, MIT one, BU two on the river, NU one? Why? Why does the UBC get one? That's six for the schools, one for the Brahmins while Community Boating and Community Rowing is for us peasants. It is a fair question.

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Voting closed 8

Harvard owned the land right up to the Charles but ceded it to the state for Memorial & Soldiers Field Roads. In exchange they got a lease to have their boathouse for $1 a year for a thousand years or something stupid like that. Probably a similar story with BU, NU & MIT.

To complain about their "below market rates" without noting the historical ownership of the land and how the agreement came to be is a gross misrepresentation of the setup.

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Voting closed 28

"Roots" is a vague word.

Baker's history is not exclusive to the Baker family, and involves Seth Bemis.

For the next few years he experimented in the production of chocolate (this eventually became the Walter Baker Chocolate Co. of Dorchester -- now a historic land mark)

https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:rv043140q

As for the dams and their potential removal, I'm no dam expert but I'd love to learn more about them as time allows. I'm going to assume that the people who wrote a 300 page report about the removal of this one dam have some idea what they are talking about, but I haven't checked their credentials.

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Voting closed 24

Or stay in your lane.

Geesh, John - is there an exlax shortage lately?

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I wonder how one or some could safely alter an antiquated dam...such that the only option would be proper removal sooner than later...

EDIT to say: Natick is in the middle of determining the safety/process for removing their dam from the Charles because it's in bad shape and the choices are remove or repair and they're actually likely to remove it (who knows how long the process will take...we can never seem to do anything in reasonable time frames any more). If the Watertown dam were determined to be "repair or replace" maybe it would also go sooner than later...

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... only exists because of the Moody Street Dam. Remove that dam, and the Lakes District would drain, would it not? Wouldn't all the magnificent wetlands along the river between the Turnpike and Moody Street disappear?

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"I don't think the area upstream of the dam is some recreational treasure like the Charles River basin by the Esplanade" - See Above

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Voting closed 9

Credentials needed.

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Originally, what was there? Probably low wetlands which would become mostly reforested. While there would be some loss of water sheet, it would be replaced with a couple of hundred acres of swamp, forest and grasslands, which could be kept mostly in its natural state (although it might be quite nice to have some paths and trails through the area). So you'd wind up with a healthier river and a lot of new open space (which can absorb pollutants, carbon, rainwater, etc).

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Voting closed 14

From reading the report, there's going to be some very nasty stuff kicked up by the removal; it's not going to be cheap to remediate the exposed toxic metals (notably, lead) from the long-gone industrial sites that used to line the river. They're going to have to spend some serious money dealing with the exposed surface that right now has a good layer of water, silt and sand over it. And to stabilize the banks because in the spring the water level is likely to be just as high as it is now.

They removed the (Bemis) dam above Bridge Street, so it's definitely doable.

The next dam upstream (beyond Farwell Street, behind Shaw's) could also go. But the Waltham Dam (just below Moody Street) really can't; it's what makes upriver recreational boating (like Paddle Boston at The Cove in Newton) work.

Note: I live two blocks from the Charles in Watertown-Bemis. This will directly affect me. We experienced the massive flood in 2009; the mitigation efforts since are working, and I'm 100% behind the dam removal if they can prevent a fishkill from the exposed toxins.

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Voting closed 15

From reading the report, there's going to be some very nasty stuff kicked up by the removal; it's not going to be cheap to remediate the exposed toxic metals (notably, lead) from the long-gone industrial sites that used to line the river.

The stuff is there, and it's inevitable that it'll get kicked up by something at some point. You're absolutely right that it won't be cheap, but not removing a failing dam because of toxins seems like kicking the can down the road (and, I would guess, increasing the chances that these toxins will be released by an uncontrolled flood due to dam failure).

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Voting closed 11

I can think of that about this, is people complaining about the heavy machinery noise. Good thing Watertown just implemented the SeeClickFix "Complaint App!"

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