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Labrador pond dam work delayed
SUMNER —Work on Labrador Pond Dam can be done right, or it can be done quick, but it can't be done right quick, the board of selectmen decided last week.
Work on Labrador Pond Dam was delayed after a group of citizens who live on the pond persuaded town officials to seek more information about the best way to achieve the desired result.
Citizens Ed Hinshaw and Larry O'Rourke addressed the selectboard on behalf of a group of stakeholders who would like to be involved with any changes to the dam.
The dam, located at Valley Road, was altered to raise the water level of Labrador Pond beyond the level that was originally intended. This has contributed to basement floodings and washouts on Labrador Pond Road.
Removing a series of flat rocks that have been added to the dam would restore the structure to its original design, which is documented in a drawing from when it was first built in 2000.
Two weeks ago, Selectman Mark Silber and Road Commissioner James Keach discussed sliding the rocks to the bottom of the dam, which would provide support to the sandbags and reduce erosion.
But O'Rourke and Hinshaw were not convinced that this would achieve the desired effect.
"It would seem like we have definitely some difference of opinion on what will reduce the flow or increase the flow," said Selectboard Chair Mary Ann Haxton. "If the logic in removing the stones was to, if not lower, at least widen the spillway, and then if we can do that by moving the stones, how do we get them where they go without getting a monstrous crane in there to accomplish that?"
Achieving consensus on the dam promises to be difficult, as stakeholders initially joined the discussion without agreeing on whether the water should be raised, lowered, or maintained.
They eventually achieved consensus on maintaining water levels, but creating a better drainage system that would minimize the flooding effects of heavy rains, according to Hinshaw.
"At the end of the meeting, we had reached some kind of consensus as to what might happen to keep the water level at the height it is now, recognizing that it is higher and it's made the pond a little bit better," said Hinshaw. "We all agreed to that."
Now, they have to agree on the best way to manage the project, which seemed to have as many considerations as there were people involved in the process.
The final placement and method of moving the large, flat stones, eroding sandbags, and potentially competing concerns of flooded basements and road washouts all complicate what seemed at first to be a very simple job.
"Where can we access somebody that actually has experience in this stuff, as opposed to those of us sitting around offering up opinion based on observation?" asked Larry O'Rourke. "I'd much prefer to get a professional opinion before we screw something up royally."
O'Rourke suggested a person he knew from Bethel who has experience as a hydrologic engineer.
"The challenge is cost, because there's no money for it," said Chair Mary Ann Haxton.
"I would surely think there would be some state employee who would come down here on salary," said Hinshaw. "I don't know why we're worrying about funds."
"I'm worrying about funds because of the suggestion of the fellow in Bethel," said Silber.
The selectboard eventually decided to seek a professional opinion from the Soil and Water Conservation District, or some other agency.
Haxton cautioned that too much deliberation could cause the project to be delayed until next year.
"We may be passing the opportunity to get it done before winter," said Haxton.