I read with interest the article concerning the controversy over the Potter Hill Mill Dam removal. Let’s state what this controversy is really about. It’s a handful of riverfront landowners who are afraid their personal playground will be changed if the dam is removed versus the thousands of residents downstream who will benefit from flood mitigation and the Pawcatuck River itself which will benefit from being reconnected to flow through its natural habitat. This is also a case of people presenting statements as if they were facts without any data to back it up versus scientists and engineers who have done a careful study using physical measurements, computer modeling, and years of studies on other similar dam-removal projects.
The area of the Pawcatuck River where a motorized boat can travel is limited to only a mile or so. The depth here is not the natural state of this low-energy river. It benefits no one but the people who happen to live at that spot. This is also an area with lawns cut all the way down to the waterline and retaining wall rights in the river, practices that are in direct violation of the Rhode Island wetland regulations. Motorized boats add gas and oil to the water, which is not good river stewardship.
Removal of the Potter Hill Mill Dam will change the Pawcatuck River for the better for the vast majority of residents in southern New England. It will mitigate flooding downstream and provide a better habitat for the wildlife, especially migrating fish.
It will continue to improve and protect the special qualities of the river. Public access to the Pawcatuck River has always been limited and will not be changed by dam removal. In fact, the experience for non-motorized recreation on the river will probably be enhanced.
I urge the politicians to take the long view and listen to the scientists and engineers in regards to the issue of what to do with the Potter Hill Mill Dam. Support the solution that benefits the vast majority of your constituents and allows future generations the enjoyment of this beautiful National Wild and Scenic River.
Denise J Poyer
The writer is the former project coordinator for the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Study.