2016-09-01 / Around Town

City Looks at Dam Repairs

By Barry Bridges

The City of Newport has inked a $113,916 contract for engineering and inspection services to address safety violations at city-owned dams.

With no discussion at their meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 24, councilors approved an agreement with Arcadis U.S., Inc., a design and consultancy firm, to perform visual inspections, investigate spillways, and examine suspected erosion at the dams.

Newport owns and maintains the supply system and reservoirs that the community depends on for its water. The contract is in response to a “Notice of Violation” issued in April by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Office of Compliance and Inspection that spelled out problems at the dams.

However, a significant portion of the violations were for overgrown vegetation that may inhibit flow or not allow for proper inspections.

The DEM identified “high hazard” dams at Watson Reservoir in Tiverton; Sisson Pond in Portsmouth; St. Mary’s Pond in Portsmouth; Nelson Pond in Middletown; and Gardiner Pond in Middletown.

According to DEM regulations, a “high hazard” dam is one whose failure or mis-operation would result in a probable loss of human life.

Easton Pond North Dam, Easton Pond South Dam, and Lawton Valley Reservoir Dam have also been identified as high hazard, but work at those locations is being performed separately.

Nonquit Pond Dam in Tiverton, also included under the Arcadis contract, is considered a “significant hazard,” defined as a dam where “failure or mis-operation would result in no probable loss of human life but could cause major economic loss, disruption of lifeline facilities, or impact other concerns detrimental to the public’s health, safety, and welfare.”

Beyond overgrown vegetation, other problems were itemized. For example, the Nelson Pond Dam is described as having an “auxiliary spillway with cracked/broken concrete, a leaning wall, missing concrete caps and reports of leakage during elevated water levels.” At the Gardiner Pond Dam, there is “suspected erosion of the toe of the downstream embankment adjacent to Maidford Brook,” while the Nonquit Pond Dam has an inoperable low level gate.

Even though Arcadis did not submit the lowest bid for the six dams at issue, City Manager Joseph Nicholson wrote to councilors that “Arcadis showed a clear understanding of the requirements of the project, has considerable experience in the field, and [a] thorough approach.”

The company indicated that it hoped to begin work within one week of receiving authorization to proceed.

Funding for the project will come from the Water Division Capital Improvement Program.

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