Consultants Say Removal of Haverhill’s Little River Dam Will Bring a Cleaner Waterway

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

An artist’s representation of Little River near Winter Street with the dam removed.

Elimination of Little River dam, near Lafayette Square, will bring a cleaner waterway and improve recreational access.

Consultants from Fuss & O’Neil delivered the message to a small group of residents Wednesday night who gathered for online presentations in English and Spanish. Phil Moreschi, a certified flood plan manager for the company, explained removal of the dam will produce a fresher river.

“Removal of the dam will provide for a free-flowing system, essentially no stagnation as currently occurs. There will be little sediment accumulation as a result because sediment will be carried through the system,” he said.

The company also outlined plans to use Cashman Field, off Hilldale Avenue, as a recreational access point to the river which would include a canoe and kayak launch area, a pedestrian bridge, fishing area and a river-front trail network.

Julianna Busa, the group’s senior environmental scientist, began the discussion by outlining the areas of the river affected by the project.

“Our project encompasses the corridor from the dam northward, ending before we get to 495, and the active portion of our project is limited to the area that ends at the MBTA railroad bridge,” she explained.

Busa said goals of the project are to reduce flooding risks, increase river access and develop more green space downtown. She said the project also would also remove a barrier to fish and other aquatic organisms, allowing them better access to the upstream portion of the river.

Busa said the city also hopes the removal of the dam helps increase the marketability of the abandoned Stevens Mill building adjacent to the dam.

At least two members of the Haverhill Conservation Commission attended the meeting, Chairperson Harmony Wilson and Vice Chair Ralph T. Basiliere. Basiliere told WHAV the meeting was informative, but next steps are crucial.

“The highlights of this meeting are that a design is starting to come together and that people can expect a full, complete and rigorous permitting process that will be open to the public,” he said.

Busa said her group will be working on necessary permits which they hope to submit early this summer. She said, typically, permitting takes a full year before work may begin.

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