BRENTWOOD -- The state is taking the first steps toward removing an aging dam along the Exeter River this week following a legal battle that began after the owner failed to address the deficiencies.
In the wake of a court order issued last month, the state has taken control of the dam on Mill Road and on Wednesday will begin permanently removing the lower level gate and penstock from the dam built in 1927.
According to Charlie Krautmann, a dam safety engineer with the state Department of Environmental Services’ Dam Bureau, the removal of the gate and penstock is the start of the project that will permanently remove the dam that’s been a concern for state officials and local residents in recent years.
The state has classified the dam as a “significant” hazard based on a dam failure analysis.
“We’ve given the owner a couple of years to repair or remove it,” Krautmann said.
The project must still receive proper permits, but Krautmann said he expects the dam will be completely removed by sometime next year.
Once the dam is gone, he said, “the Exeter River is going to go back to its natural state.”
The dam’s removal means the slow, meandering river will be more shallow through the area, he said.
The state was forced to take over the dam after Rockingham County Superior Court Judge N. William Delker on Sept. 5 ordered the owner, Brentwood Dam Ventures LLC, to take immediate action to have it repaired or removed.
Delker found that it committed various violations and ordered the company to abide by the terms of an administrative order issued by the state last year.
Brentwood Dam Ventures was given 30 days to prepare and submit an emergency action plan and 45 days to repair or remove the dam, but since nothing has been done, the state has assumed responsibility.
Krautmann said the state will pay for the removal and seek reimbursement from Brentwood Dam Ventures. While the project will be costly, he declined to offer a preliminary estimate.