To the editor:
In the light of the latest flood and the likelihood that we will see even more severe storms in our future, is it time to reconsider the fate of Hardwick Lake and Jackson Dam? I know that years ago we voted to keep those local icons since I was one of those who voted in their favor.
Looking at the incredible damage along Wolcott Street during this past flooding event has caused me to wonder if having a lower basin (basically no lake and a bigger hole) below the village would give flood waters a place to go instead of spreading out along Wolcott Street.
My understanding is that our lake waters are lowered before winter sets in so that ice will have an area to flow into during spring break-up. Hardwick’s flooding has often been associated with winter ice, but now it seems as though torrential rains might be our biggest problem.
A second issue is the dam itself. I believe that recent studies have shown it needs repairs. Neglected dams in nearby towns were washed out in the latest storm, and I hate to think what might happen to our neighbors downstream if Hardwick Lake were suddenly released.
Another unpleasant thought is whether Hardwick would be liable for the damage a burst dam caused. The dam itself is owned by the Hardwick Electric Department, and I understand that in some convoluted way, Hardwick Electric properties are owned in part by the town. That ownership was the rationale for the town’s voters weighing in on a decision about the lake years ago. As far as I know, the dam serves absolutely no purpose for the electric department as it provides no power and is not even used to regulate water flow to a generating facility. If anything, it is probably a liability for HED and perhaps for the town.
After a previous flood, a study was done that suggested large granite blocks be placed in the river above the motel and that the bank of the river from Cottage Street to Cooper Brook be built up to mitigate damage from ice-out. Those suggestions were done. Does anyone know if that same study or any other research has recommendations concerning the lake and dam? Let’s put some thought into this while our memories are fresh. We know this wasn’t just a “hundred-year” event. All of us are likely to see severe storms again, probably too soon.
Question: Would the removal of the Jackson Bridge Dam and the emptying of Hardwick Lake help prevent future flooding on Wolcott Street?