NASHUA — City officials and developer John Stabile celebrated the completion of a $1 million renovation project at the Jackson Falls Dam on Wednesday, which is expected to minimize future downtown flooding.
Seventy-four properties, in addition to the new Cotton Mill Square housing complex, are now eliminated from the 100-year floodplain zone in downtown Nashua because of the new crest gate built at the dam, said Stabile.
“They did a beautiful job,” Stabile said of H.L. Turner Group of Concord and various other entities that built the dam and helped obtain local, state and federal authorization for the project.
As part of Stabile’s Cotton Mill Square development, the adjustable crest gate for the 180-feet dam was constructed to decrease the water level of the Nashua River by about four feet during flooding, and remove the multi-million dollar housing complex from the floodplain.
Several months ago, the water level of the Nashua River was lowered to allow construction to begin on the new crest gate, which was recently completed.
“We got the job done on time, and a little bit over budget,” Stabile said Wednesday during a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I never thought, in my career, that I could do something like this.”
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau joined Stabile at the Nashua River overlook behind the Nashua Public Library, cutting a gold ribbon and celebrating the completion of what she called a historical event for the city.
“Water is quite powerful and can create a lot of damage,” said Lozeau, explaining the dam can now be controlled electronically and adjusted when necessary to prevent costly flood damage to nearby homes.
The previous dam operated as a run-of-river dam, not a store-and-release dam. The new crest gate, however, uses a compressed air piping system and steel plate operation to inflate or deflate the gate automatically when warranted, coordinating with the rise and fall of the river, according to Stabile.
“It is really quite remarkable,” the mayor said of the new crest gate technology.
The Jackson Falls Dam is owned by the City of Nashua, but is currently leased to Nashua Hydro Associates until 2014.
Adjustments to the dam paved the way for the Cotton Mill Square project to begin, which includes the revitalization of a 108-year-old historic building on Front Street, about 100 apartment units, contamination cleanup and a riverwalk.
The $26 million mixed-income housing project by Stabile previously received approval from various state and federal agencies.
The seventh-floor of the housing complex was being painted on Wednesday, according to Stabile, who said the project is progressing quickly.
“We hope to have three floors occupied by the first week of April, and we will begin opening lease operations probably in the first week of January,” he said. “We have already had a great response.”
The Cotton Mill Square project was originally proposed in 2006, however it stalled because of the economy.
Once the eight-story building is complete, it will offer mixed-income housing with 55 affordable apartments and 54 market-rate apartments.