Breached dam threatens Ice Pond's future
Barrier will likely require replacement
By Patrick Cronin
Seacoast Sunday, September 12, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Sunday and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON — A dam controlling the water level at the Ice Pond off Woodland Road recently breached and officials said if nothing is done to restore it, the pond itself will eventually dry up and become unusable.
The town's Conservation Commission recently informed selectmen the dam at the town-owned pond will need to be rebuilt as soon as possible.
"If the town does nothing, then the pond will ultimately drain," said Jay Diener, chairman of the Conservation Commission. "Its more than just for recreation purposes. You also have habitat that will be affected by the level of the pond. "
Diener said when the town purchased the Ice Pond in 2007 it was apparent the dam would eventually need to be repaired. Storms this past February and early March, he said, worsened the issue.
"The whole spillway has been compromised and it's really more debris now that has backed up against it holding the water back rather than the dam itself," Diener said.
Diener said Conservation Commission was considering putting forth a warrant article to repair the dam when it breached in late February or early March. The commission used a portion of a $25,000 grant from the New Hampshire Coastal Program to pay for a preliminary engineering study on what would be involved in repairing the dam and its estimated cost.
"We had that study done and our next step was to put forth a warrant article to repair the dam," Diener said. "However, due to some of the significant storms we had, the work originally proposed in the engineering study is no longer sufficient to restore the dam to good operation."
The original cost to repair the dam was estimated at $30,000 to $40,000 and now it's closer to $70,000, he said.
"Now we are looking at rebuilding the dam rather than repairing it," Diener said. "Another good storm could wash the entire dam away."
Diener said by not doing anything the pond would dry up. Its water level is already lower than it should be at this time of year.
The Ice Pond is a part of the significant watershed that connects all of Hampton. The watershed includes Nilus Brook, which flows from 12 Shares, through the Ice Pond, to the Great Meadow, Mill Pond, Meadow Pond and into the salt marsh.
"This will also have implications on what happens downstream," Diener said. "There are already issues at Mill Pond with not much water flowing through. This will just exacerbate those problems."
Town Manager Fred Welch said the dam is very old and added that the town took ownership of the dam because it's the only way to control the water level of the pond.
"It's not a high-hazard dam," Welch said. "So there was no issue with anything being damaged if the dam gives way. But it needs to be rebuilt."
Welch has drafted a warrant article to rebuild the dam for selectmen approval. "But I would really like to do it as soon as possible," he said.
Welch said if there is money left over in the budget at year's end, he would advocate using it for the project. "If we do nothing, there will be no pond," he said.
Voters approved purchasing 12½ acres off Woodland Road, which included the pond, in 2005 to protect the land and wildlife habitats in the area from further development.
The Conservation Commission used $100,000 approved at the 2005 Town Meeting and $150,000 in its conservation fund to complete the purchase. The land is open for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The Ice Pond is available for fishing, canoeing and skating during the winter.