Haverhill Moves Ahead With Next Phase of Little River Dam, Saying Removal Would Unify Neighborhood

Design scenarios connecting the Hilldale Avenue and Winter Street neighborhoods should the Little River dam be removed. (Courtesy renderings.)

Haverhill is moving cautiously toward taking down the Little River dam near Lafayette Square and establishing a walking trail, pedestrian bridge, fishing platform and kayak/canoe launch area.

The state formally granted the city another $475,000 this week for river restoration design and permitting, while providing amounts to other area communities for similar climate change preparations. Haverhill mayoral Chief of Staff Allison Heartquist says the latest phase is a two-year process, requiring signoffs from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Heartquist says the neighborhood, including Cashman’s Field on Hilldale, could be unified in the post-industrial future.

“It’s basically going to improve the connectivity of the neighborhood with recreational opportunities,” she tells WHAV.

The city previously received a $70,600 state-funded Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness study. It paid for a feasibility study and involved hiring consultant Fuss and O’Neill and retention of Christine P. Soundara to conduct outreach to residents. Heartquist says this week’s award is targeted to developing a sediment disposal and management plan.

“The major concern is the sediment removal—or remediation—if there is going to be such a thing. It all depends on how toxic the sediment is,” she explains.

Results from the study are expected next month.

A day-long Community Resilience Building forum concluded last year the dam is a possible “climate-related hazard.” There were also public hearings this past spring conducted in both English and Spanish.

“We haven’t decided if we are actually, 100% taking it down because we need to know what the price tag is going to be for the city. Although we are applying for all of these grants, there is going to be a cost associated with it,” she adds.

State Energy and Environmental Affairs Director of Communications Craig Gilvarg shared information with WHAV, reporting, “To date, no major hurdles are foreseen for the removal of the dam, which is expected to reduce the extent of flooding risk and provide shade and river access for cooling and recreation in the heart of an (Environmental Justice) community.

Besides Haverhill, Groveland received a $82,186 grant for its Johnson Creek Watershed Flood Resiliency Project and Methuen and Lawrence were awarded $80,250 for “resilience planning” along the Searles Pond/Bloody Brook Corridor.

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

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