Haverhill Council Asks State to Pay for Study of Little River Dam Removal; Could Aid Development

Officials say removal of the Little River dam could spur redevelopment of the Stevens Mill, described as a Brownfields site. (WHAV News photograph.)

The Haverhill City Council gave its support Tuesday night to request state grant to study the feasibility of removing the Little River Dam, just north of Winter Street.

The dam, which was originally built in the early 1800s, provided power to a local flannel mill. It has not been used for that purpose for several decades and is believed to contribute to upstream flooding along Apple Street and Little River Street.

If the application is accepted, the money will come from the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs office via a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program which provides communities with funding to complete vulnerability assessments and develop recovery plans.

In addition to abating the risk of flooding, officials believe removing the dam could create a new a river access point and public green space, provide increased tree cover in the downtown area, and create environmental benefits by removing a barrier to fish passage along the Little River.

Officials also believe that removing the dam could boost interest in development of the former Stevens Mills property. In 2016, Winn Development proposed a $30 million redevelopment of that property which would have added 80 units of housing and a restaurant.

Last week, the Conservation Commission endorsed the grant request. The Commission’s community liaison Ralph T. Basiliere said restoring the river will help the Acre neighborhood.  “If there’s one thing I could do as a Conservation Commissioner to help my neighbors and an ecosystem, it’d be permitting the removal of the dam.”

Basiliere said the Commission looks forward to working with its state and local partners.

The Council passed the request by a vote of 8-0 with Councilor Michael S. McGonagle absent.

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