Tell Uncle Sam to fix the dam

To the Editor,

We submit that federal and state governments have moral, ethical and legal obligations to maintain the Great Swamp Dam they constructed in 1979 in response to the flood of 1955. We were told the dam would protect citizens and property plus wetlands and wildlife. We were told the dam would last 100 years. Now they want to tear it down.

Their arguments to destroy the dam are ill-conceived. They claim they didn’t know the area would experience the growth its seen over the past 40 years. Why not simply control stormwater from this upstream development? Certainly controlling flash runoff is cheaper than decommissioning.

They further claim the dam now requires a higher level of certification to withstand a one-in-1,000 year rain event, which would dump an estimated 33 inches of rain in 24 hours. It has never happened. The worst storm was Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which dumped 14 inches of rain — and the dam worked. According to the town’s engineer at the time, water didn’t even run over the spillway.

My mother lives in a house that will be deliberately put into a floodplain if the dam is decommissioned. Hundreds of other residences and businesses downstream will also lose property — 16 percent of an acre on average — potentially affecting septic systems and wells. Traffic will suffer. Simply put, destroying the dam will destroy property values.

How does rational public policy dictate a “preferred alternative,” which carries 100 percent probability of horrible consequences, versus speculation over events caused by extreme weather phenomena? Their bedrock technocratic answer boils down to money. It would cost roughly $8 million to fix and less than $1 million to destroy those protections the dam has afforded nature, property and people for four decades.

The federal government can afford to do the right thing and make the necessary enhancements. In 1979, state and federal agencies entered into a social contract by building the dam in the first place. Those who bought and developed property reasonably assumed that the dam — built to last 100 years and protect people from floods — would never be intentionally destroyed by those that built it.

Tell Uncle Sam to fix the dam by visiting today.

William C. Ostrand, Ridgefield; Founder, Save Our Streams.