We're Still Here ...  and so is the dam! 
The 'sky' didn't fall, after all.   No Leeds residents were rousted from their beds last winter, this past spring, or even during the heavy rainfall of this early summer season and told to evacuate their homes.  Even that 1/4" of water that might spread out on the cornfield/floodplain down river failed to materialize, despite record snowmelt/rainfall.  The granite dam still stands.  There are other, more pressing projects that demand the attention and finances of the city's Dept. of Public Works.  Let's demand an end to the DPW / City Hall politics surrounding this issue and ask, instead, for fiscal responsibility and forward-thinking.  
What's NEXT for The Upper Roberts Meadow dam?
We continue to hear daily from folks who want to see this dam and reservoir saved.  Some are keen on clean hydropower potential, while others want the diverse habitat and beautiful vista provided by the Upper Roberts Meadow Dam and Reservoir  preserved for future generations. 
All want it saved. 
 A recent article totaled the cost of Northampton's  fight to demolish the dam rather than repair it.  The writer described it as the "expense of the Friends' attempt to save the dam."  We beg to differ.  The Friends' only intention was to work collaboratively with the city from the start.  We have experienced grant-writers who do that for a living.  But the Friends could not write grant applications for land owned by the city unless the city would sign off and provide their federal tax id.  Many grant applications could have been written, by us or by the city, in an effort to preserve the dam.  But they refused to work with us and they failed to submit any applications for repairing the dam on their own.  That left the Friends searching for other financial solutions to save the dam.  Our discoveries about the  site's hydropower potential was born from the city's own refusal to work with us when all we needed was some information (however, most is public record) their signature and tax id.   It would have been a good deal for the city.  And free. 
We found that a small Kaplan turbine can easily be installed at the dam, generating enough electricity to pay for its own future maintenance.  And FERC has license exemptions for sites producing small amounts of power.  We offered to fundraise to purchase the equipment and licensing costs.  Again, it would have been a good deal for the city.  And free.  But we could not convince the city to sanction this option.  They wanted the dam down. 
 They hired a consulting engineering firm who scared residents in January 2010 meeting in Leeds, citing the potential for a domino failure of the upper, middle and lower Roberts Meadow dams and the inundation of Leeds village.  That firm publicly retracted that inaccuracy at the forum in October, but too late ... just hours before the DPW took their vote to remove the dam.  But the damage was done.  Citizens had been alarmed and wanted to avoid impending doom.  Was this a good deal for the city?  No.  Was it free?  No.  The city needs to pay those consultants for what they did for them. 
  While the DPW and city government appears 'stuck,' many citizens of Northampton are not.  They seek a different outcome for their city - one which looks for new approaches to solving old problems, one which embraces opportunities just like this which would create cheap, clean and sustainable energy from small hydropower turbines installed at the city's existing historic dams.  They want to work WITH, not AGAINST, their paid city officials.  Had the dam been owned by a land trust or private entity, such as the Bean Farm, we could have easily secured the dam's future.  While we were approved for CPA funding in early 2010, the mayor determined it was not a good use of tax dollars (50% is state $) and refused to send these particular CPA-approved funds to the City Council for endorsement.  The fact that the dam is on city property means the city,  the mayor and her appointed DPW director, gets to make the final determination 
Why do they want this dam gone? 
 "Your numbers may be right, but we have come to a different conclusion," said the mayor in one exchange with a Friends member last year.
Again ... why do they want this dam gone? 
The BPW voted on Thursday, Oct. 28th to remove the dam, 24 hours after new information presented at the public forum at JFK school. That vote was in response to a Nov. 1 deadline issued by the Office of Dam Safety for a decision by the city on whether to remove or repair the dam.  The city is now 'in compliance.'

What was learned at the Forum? 

First, that the floodplain can easily hold the water in the Upper Roberts Meadow dam.  The dam holds 19 acre feet of water (19 acres @ 1' depth), yet the floodplain (the cornfield between Kennedy and Reservoir roads) could hold over 430 acre feet of water. 

Second, that it is VERY possible to seek a hazard class reduction, reducing the cost of dam repairs from $1.14 million to $416,000!  What is needed is for the city to hire GEI Consultants to finish the work they began and seek that hazard class reduction.  That investment ($25,000) would spare the dam and save the City a massive amount of money.

Third, that the numbers don't add up.  The city has applied for a MEMA grant to remove the dam, but the grant requires a minimum 25%  match.  That's , $325,000.  Add to that the fact that cost over-runs with removal projects often run as high as 30%, so add in other $390,000.  The City's taxpayers/water ratepayers may easily end up paying as much as $716,000 to remove a historic dam that could still be saved for $416,000!  Watch the dollars flow downstream with this project...

Fourth, the micro-hydro potential is there, all firms including Tighe & Bond concur on the potential and the power capability figures.  What varies is the potential revenue it can generate.  The Green Communities Act of 2008 separated out hydro from the net metering option, making it available to solar and wind generators only.  We will work toward making the Act more friendly to hydro potential.  There is a need for MORE green power, not less.  We need all of our dams to produce green energy, and the Friends have offered to seek funds for ALL of the micro-hydro equipment and the permitting.  We want to see ALL of the City's dams included in that potential.  Let's do this for our future!
Now more than ever, we welcome your help and your support to save the historic dam and protect the beautiful reservoir & ecologically diverse wildlife habitat at the site.  It still stands.  It's an historic site that played an important role in the development of Northampton.  The dam, itself, is a piece of history.  The value of all that?  We say, "it's priceless."
How can you help?   We need your awareness, your letters to local and state legislators regarding the need for hydro-friendly legislation, and your financial assistance.  Contributions from residents of Leeds, Florence, Northampton, Westhampton, Hatfield and Hadley have covered printing & postage costs, enabled the Friends to hire an engineering firm to determine the water volume and potential for micro-hydro power at the dam and hire a consultant (GEI) to review the studies done by the city's engineering firm (GZA).  The public's continued correspondence and generosity belies the diminished description of the Friends as just a "neighborhood group"  living "upstream" and on "private wells."  Keep in mind, when you read these things, that this could just as easily be in YOUR backyard.  Witness this example of how you and your neighbors would be treated, should the city decide to remove something that you have a deep connection to that's close to your home.  Your park, playground, the view from your window, your street. Currently, we are very close to being able to pay filing fees associated with establishing our 501 (c)(3) status.
 Please send your donation to:
 The Friends of the Upper Reservoir
 PO Box 561, Leeds MA 01053
Thank You for Your Continued Support!
Each 'Save the Dam' lawn sign that you've noticed go 'missing' represented a $10 donation
toward repairing and saving the dam. Some bold individual stole the signs from lawns in the fall and  spring.
Note:  This site has been built and is maintained by volunteers.  If something is unclear or incorrect please let us know! 
The Friends of the Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir and Chesterfield Road Dam (aka Upper Roberts Meadow Dam) have spearheaded grassroots effort to repair and preserve this nearly 130-year old dam, and protect an important wildlife habitat and protect a rare water vista at this site. 
Our sole purpose is to support the repair of this historic and beautiful dam, to save the reservoir for future generations and to see low-impact micro-hydro placed on this and other dams in the Roberts Meadow area.  The Friends have offered to help the Board of Public Works (BPW), which oversees the Department of Public Works, raise the cost difference between dam removal and repair.  The repair/removal costs are now nearly equal ($25,000 more for repair), however the BPW asked the Friends for an additional $625,000 for 50 years worth of maintenance costs ... up front.  They estimate $125,000 for alternate year inspections, repointing the stones every 25 years and $500,000 for a one-time dredging.  (We have since learned that dredging is not necessary, and that without it, the stream can still produce hydro-power.)

We are exploring all grants and all options, and believe that one of the most viable options to raise money to support this dam for the long term is to make the dam pay for itself and to tap this and several dams along the Mill River for harnessing micro-hydro electric power and have this - and all dams in Northampton - provide us with much needed income and a source of clean, renewable power.  By utilizing the water for micro-hydro electric power, the Upper Roberts Meadow Dam could pay for its own upkeep in future years as well as provide green power to our community.   To donate, please send your check to:

Friends of the Upper Roberts Meadow Reservoir, PO BOX 561, Leeds, MA  01053.

The reservoir is a beautiful spot where even the casual passerby might glimpse a river otter or blue heron, Merganser ducks, beaver, or even a kingfisher.  The wildlife living here depend upon this established habitat, and we all deserve to experience the beauty of the reservoir, the spray of the water going over the dam and the sound of the water's pounding power.  If you have ever biked out this way, you've experienced that refreshing blast of cool air as you made your way up the hill. 

The City of Northampton has opted to remove it.  Neighbors and abutters only learned of this plan a year AFTER they filed the basic paperwork to remove the dam.  This is NOT a done deal.  What can you do?  

Please contribute what you can.  The lawn signs have all gone out (have you seen them?), but we still need your help!    Contact information below: