Is the proposed design accounting for climate change projections and worst-case future hydrologic scenarios?

Yes. As our region experiences more frequent and intense weather events such as heavy precipitation or droughts as a result of climate change, it is expected that this will increase stress on rivers and wetlands bordering rivers. Naturally flowing, unfragmented rivers with vegetated wetlands and floodplains are more capable of responding to severe environmental stressors than rivers that are dammed. Increased water temperatures and variable water levels as a result of climate change will negatively impact the ecology of the river over time, but removing the dam will make the Pawcatuck River more resilient to these changes.

Floodplains serve to temporarily store flood flows, while run-of-the river dams like Potter Hill Dam have upstream impoundments with no floodwater storage. Vegetated riparian wetlands provide a root network to strengthen riverbanks and floodplains, and help to trap sediments transported during high river flows. These vegetated riparian plants also provide habitat structure for wildlife that overall is higher quality habitat than an open water impoundment. With climate change effects, a diversity of riparian plants will provide conditions more favorable to supporting wildlife associated with the Pawcatuck River watershed.

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1. Why is the dam being removed?
2. Could the dam be repaired or partially removed?
3. Could a design similar to that of the Bradford fish passage project be used for the Potter Hill project?
4. What alternative designs have been considered and why was the proposed design selected?
5. What safety hazards are associated with the mill and dam structures?
6. How will removing the dam affect water levels in the river?
7. Will my household well be affected?
8. Many properties along the Pawcatuck River have private drinking water wells, especially on the Hopkinton side of the river. How many homeowners’ wells could be affected by the predicted drop
9. Will Westerly’s municipal water wells adjacent to the Pawcatuck River be affected?
10. How will removing the dam reduce flood risk to upstream and downstream properties? Will larger flood events (i.e., the 500-year recurrence flood) be worse upstream or downstream following dam removal?
11. Will removal of the dam cause increased flooding to downstream areas, including downtown Westerly?
12. How will removing the defunct dam and mill affect public access to and uses of the river?
13. How will removing the dam affect fish and wildlife?
14. How will removing the dam affect wetland systems upstream of the dam?
15. Is the proposed design accounting for climate change projections and worst-case future hydrologic scenarios?
16. Who is the project team?
17. What are the next steps?
18. Where can I get more information on the project?