Haverhill Considers Removing Little River Dam to Resolve Flooding, Hasten Development

Little River dam and falls at Winter Street in Haverhill. (WHAV News photograph.)

The public has opportunities to shape policy this week as various Haverhill boards meet. In the interest of transparency in government, WHAV provides this list of upcoming meetings every week.

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

The picturesque Little River Dam at Winter Street could be coming down in the future as Haverhill considers how to deal with upstream flooding at areas along Apple Street and Little River Street.

City councilors tonight are being asked to support a request for a state grant to study the feasibility of removing the dam. The Haverhill Conservation Commission last week also signed off on the request to delivered to the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program of the state office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

A dam at the site dates back to at least 1832. According to “Remembering Haverhill: Stories from the Merrimack Valley” by Charles W. Turner,” Ezekiel Hale constructed a dam to operate his sawmill, grain mill and flannel factory. Hale was the father of benefactor Ezekiel James Madison Hale who donated the Haverhill Public Library and former Hale Hospital. Hale’s original mill burned in 1835 and was replaced by the brick building that still stands today. The business was sold at auction in 1855 to Capt. Nathaniel Stevens.

Back in 2016, Winn Development first proposed a $30 million redevelopment of Stevens Mills. The plan would have added 80 units of housing with a restaurant on the first floor.

Haverhill officials say removal of the dam could hasten development of the former Stevens Mills property. It would also reduce flooding risk in the Acre neighborhood, described in a letter to the state as an “an environmental justice neighborhood;” possibly create a new a river access point and public green space; provide for increased tree cover in the downtown area; and create environmental benefits by removing a barrier to fish passage along the Little River.

The Haverhill City Council meets remotely at 7 p.m. As a public service, 97.9 WHAV FM plans to present the meeting live.

In other public meetings this week:

Wednesday, June 3

Haverhill School Committee Finance Subcommittee meets remotely Wednesday, June 3, at 8:30 a.m. The agenda calls for a general budget discussion.

Thursday, June 4

Haverhill School Committee is having a special, remote meeting Thursday, June 4, at 7 p.m., to discuss the budget for the year that begins July 1.

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