Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
Maybe by now you have read the offering from Lowell’s “Blogger in Chief?”
It starts out in a rather pedestrian tone:
Executives at the U.S. National Park Service and the Lowell National Historical Park are for preservation, period.
It is their single-minded job to preserve what they consider to be national landmarks and significant articles of value that promote their cultural, historical and educational mission.
They do a good job.
But, Campi quickly turns to set up a conflict. Not so much between the Park Service and Enel, but more between Lowellians that respect history and those whose lives are turned upsidedown when the Merrimack floodwaters come:
The Park Service wants to keep the flashboards on the Pawtucket Dam because they represent early 20th century history — not because it is a good way to regulate the Merrimack River’s waterflow.
Enel North America wants to install a technologically advanced balloon crestgate system at a cost of $6 million. At the push of a button, Enel would be able to control the water’s height, produce more electricity, and increase profits.
Enel says the system would also help control flooding issues in the Pawtucketville flood plain where 12 to 15 Lowell homes are at risk of severe damage during storms.
When Enel tells The Sun that 12 to 15 homes are at risk, and you print it in the paper as fact, I am in utter disbelief. There are probably thousands of homes at risk from flooding as the Pawtucket Dam holds back water for 23 miles. When Enel and FERC says that lowering the inflatable during high flows will work to alleviate flooding they are correct, but using the inflatable to lower the water levels during a flood, or even a few days before, will not work as good as the flashboards to alleviate flooding, because the flashboards are typically down for a couple of weeks, to a couple of months in the spring, draining the basin. - BOB GAGNON Chairman, Lowell Flood Owners Group
Next, Campi squeals a couple of hackneyed, conservative canards, re: regulations & taxes:
It appears, however, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has had enough of this preservationist gridlock and is determined to approve Enel’s application for the betterment of the dam’s future, the river’s, the energy grid’s, and maybe even Lowell’s.
When the decision comes down, however, the Park Service will challenge it, leading to more legal arguments at taxpayers’ expense.
The next part is my favorite. Campi jumps in with both feet:
But the flashboards are another thing. They don’t preserve anything but problems along the Merrimack River. They are archaic. They are an eyesore to history and preservation alike, and we can’t believe that any first-time visitor who takes in the sight of them — broken and rust-colored — appreciates the plywood pile of junk as a “sacred” museum piece for the ages.
I’m not sure if Campi really belives we should put a skim coat over the Gaza Pyramids or what? What he misses completely, is that Enel controls the dam and has left it to ruin. I think it looks shitty, lately. Why now and not before? Also, the “plywood” is a cheat that Enel put in some time ago. We can fix the aesthetics, if only Enel would bother. Campi should rave at Enel for not keeping the Dam in proper order. That would be more fitting.
After breathing through his mouth for a spell, Campi comes back to us:
A crestgate system, on the other land, like the one that can be found in Lawrence, is useful and inspires awe.
You say “crestgate,” we say “bladder.” Useful? At generating a smidge more Watts, while externalizing costs to it’s neighbors. Yes, the power plant produces seasonal “water pollution.” And, it pukes it out onto the surrounding community. That is a process that is “useful” for generating ill gotten profits.
Awe? Oh!, that beautiful bladder dam. Let’s see, if you are awed. Click Here. (h/t Marie Sweeney)
Let me conclude by setting something straight. The Pawtucket Falls Dam belongs to YOU & ME. US! Lowell. Not Enel or any corporation or US Agency. Currently, it is protected by the NPS and used by Enel under a permit by FERC.
But, the simple truth is, it is ours and it is “leased” to a tenant. Do we really want to let this lousy tenant vandalize our property. In 50 years, we will be here and Enel will be gone.
This is so grotesquely misguided. How can anyone who has had a bird’s-eye view of Lowell’s renaissance over the past two decades possibly believe that preservation is an impediment to progress, or that the National Park Service in Lowell has been anything but a contributor to progress in this community?
Jack, before I weigh in on this I need you to explain one line in your post:
” I think it looks shitty, lately. Why now and not before? Also, the “plywood” is a cheat that Enel put in some time ago”
I’ve noticed that Enel has not kept up with removing debris and general upkeep of the dam. This allows the “Blogger in Chief” over at the “Blog of Record” to crow.
If you want me to clarify, “plywood” is a cheat? Enel has, at some point replaced boards with plywood. When water rushes, the boards would roll off, over the top, as the pins bent. Plywood can’t do that.
Of course, the pins, too, have been messed with. Folks have told me the pin spacing has been made closer and the pins made stronger. So, they don’t bend under the rushing water, as they should.
Enel is not a good tenant.
Having been in that area for decades I can tell you that plywood had been in use since at least the late 80’s. As for the debris what are you talking about? The debris that floats down river? Enel does remove that debris using a crane several times a year but they are certainly not going to send crews down on a daily basis to do it that is just totally unreasonable!
I have seen photos of the cap stone on the top of the dam and the repeated use of pins over the past century+ has caused major damage. This solution (bladder) will ensure that further damage does not occur and will allow for better control of the river.
As for Enel not being a good neighbor, no one is disputing that, how long did it take them to repair the bridge over the Francis Gate canal? No they are not a good neighbor, but it seems to me that since the dam is still an operating commercial enterprise and not an outdoor museum piece that this proposal is the best to preserve the dam, increase electrial output of the dam and protect property upstream from flooding.
Except, the dam IS “an outdoor museum piece.”
And it can still generate power and protect property. The increased power is not worth the value of detroying our history. My $0.02.
You ever watch that show with the Pawn Brokers in Vegas? A thing, anything, is only worth what someone is willing to pay. Enel is bartering the power on a commodity market. They get what they get.
Why pay with collateral that will be lost forever? It is not worth the price. It’s like burning the Whistler House to make room for a WalMart.
All you took from that is it is not an outdoor museum piece?
Nothing about preserving the dam from further destruction, nothing about the protection of property, nothing about the commercial aspect of the dam…the same commercial endeavours that changed the city from farmland in Dracut and Chelmsford into Lowell…so now we just box it up and put it on a shelf.
If that is the case then why not remove it and allow the restoration of salmon and other anadromous fish species like is occuring in other rivers in New England…if you really want to restore things to the way they were….
Whatever you say.
Should we put up a Nuclear Power Plant, then? Sky is the limit?
If the Nuclear Power Plant was “historical” would you be fighting as hard? Gotta go get onto the horse drawn trolley now for a trip downtown.
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