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Dam removal, water restoration project at Chicopee's Szot Park is underway

A multi-million dollar restoration project to remove dams at Szot Park in Chicopee is underway.

City officials said two dams have begun to degrade and negatively impact the water quality of the Abbey Brook, which is a small waterway that rises in Springfield and flows through Szot Park before emptying in the Chicopee River.

Carrie Banks is with the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration.

"A lot of these old earthen dams, they just haven't had maintenance over the years,” Banks said. “A lot of our infrastructure, both our dams and culverts and here in Massachusetts have really reached the end of their service lifespan. Also, the increasing precipitation events like we saw this past summer just puts even more stress on this infrastructure."

Banks said this is a three-phase project. She said phase one consists of repairing the upper Bemis Pond, which would allow water from the Abbey Brook to be managed and controlled during construction, and removing the lower Bemis Pond.

“The second phase will be replacing the Front Street culvert and then the third phase will be coming back and removing Upper Bemis Pond, once that channel downstream is opened up and is able to accommodate the natural stream flow that will be coming through here,” Banks said.

The city has received grants from the state’s Division of Ecological Restoration to support the project. The largest one, for $2 million, was granted in November 2022. The project has received an additional $5 million through federal COVID relief money since then.

Officials from the Division said it could take an estimated 4 to 5 years for the brook to be fully restored.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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