State to release $21M for dam, seawall repair or removal

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Applications will be available on Aug. 2 for up to $21 million in grant funding from the state’s Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Fund.

The grant funds will be split evenly among dam and seawall projects. Applications will be due by Aug. 29.

The MMA and local officials attended public hearings on proposed regulations governing the fund held by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in Boston, Scituate, Springfield and Worcester on May 21 and 22.

The public comment period on the proposed regulations has been extended to June 7.

The grant program was created in response to concerns about some 3,000 dams in Massachusetts, most of which are in poor condition and some of which pose a threat to public safety. The dams also affect aquatic health by blocking fish passage, slowing stream flow, raising the temperature of water, and holding back contaminants, according to the Division of Ecological Restoration.

State officials estimate that 85 percent of the state’s dams no longer serve their original purpose. Removing unsafe and obsolete dams rids their owners of liability as well as insurance and maintenance costs, while reducing risks to public safety from flooding and enabling freshwater wildlife and plants to thrive.

A 2011 report by former State Auditor Joseph DeNucci identified 100 municipally owned dams in 62 communities that were rated in unsafe or poor condition. The report estimated that $60 million would be needed just to repair high-hazard municipally owned dams.

Seawalls along the state’s 1,700 miles of coastline are also deteriorating, particularly after a series of major coastal storms in recent years. A 2009 report by the Department of Conservation and Recreation found that 85 percent of coastal protection structures are beyond their expected lifespan of 50 years and have never seen major repairs.

At the MMA’s Annual Business Meeting in January, members unanimously supported a resolution that, among other things, called on the state to enact a dam removal and repair bill.

The MMA is a participant in the Massachusetts Dam Safety Alliance, which includes the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts, the Boston Society for Civil Engineers, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, Mass Audubon, the Massachusetts Organization of Scientists and Engineers, the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, and the Massachusetts Water Works Association.

For more information about the Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Fund, or to submit written testimony, contact John Clarkson of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Information is also available online:
www.mass.gov/eea/air-water-climate-change/preserving-water-resources/water-laws-and-policies/water-laws
www.mass.gov/eea/grants-and-tech-assistance/laws-and-regulations