GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 10, 2012

Rockport's Millbrook Dam nearing completion

Project on schedule

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — After six months of restoration work, the historic Millbrook Meadow Dam is set to be complete by the end of the month.

First constructed in the early 1700s, the Mill Brook dam was used in the 1840s as an old mill dam, according to Sam Coulbourn, chairman of the Millbrook Meadow Committee.

It also saw use in 1900s, powering a factory producing isinglass for brewers before Prohibition.

The repairs to the dam are long overdue, after it was severely damaged by the heavy rain during a storm over Mother’s Day weekend in 2006.

The project came in slightly over budget at $1.1 million; the initial appraisal came in at $1 million. But Public Works Director Joseph Parisi said everything has gone according to plan.

Restoration work began in August, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency picking up 75 percent of the project tab and Rockport taxpayers taking out a loan for the remaining 25 percent.

The dam will have a historic feel, with segments from the original granite dam outlining the outside of the concrete portion, Parisi said. He added the stone and gravel exterior may begin to erode if water levels become too high, but the functional part of the dam will not break as it did in 2006.

T. Ford Co. of Georgetown was awarded the contract earlier this year and Jack Enos, the chief operating officer for the project, said it was progressing smoothly.

Enos said the company has worked on eight other dams this year alone.

“These types of projects always have certain built-in challenges,” he said.

Thankfully, Enos said, the crew was blessed with nice weather throughout the project, adding that rain can often slow down dam construction.

While the dam may be nearing completion, Parisi and other Public Works officials met with the Capital Improvements Planning Committee Monday afternoon to submit requests to improve Millbrook Meadow and Mill Pond, both near the dam. Parisi said he plans to replant some trees and other foliage in the meadow come spring time.

A request was submitted to have the pond dredged and cleared out as well.

Coulbourn noted people have brought up the issue in the past, insisting the pond be cleared out. Neighbors said that since the dam broke in 2006, Mill Pond is being filled with sediment. Mill Pond feeds a frog pond through a small waterfall under the dam.

Since the ponds have started to fill in, neighbors have said, invasive plant life has been creeping in and wildlife has been displaced.

Coulbourn has set up a question and answer forum for next week, offering residents a chance to learn about the improvements and ask any questions.

The meeting is set to take place Monday, Dec. 17, at 6 p.m., at Rockport Public Library.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3455 or jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.