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RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462
DEM BEGINS IMPROVEMENTS TO BOWDISH RESERVOIR DAM
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management has announced that construction has begun on improvements to the Bowdish Reservoir Dam in Glocester. The 225-acre Bowdish reservoir serves as an important and well-used recreational area for boating, fishing, camping and swimming in the northwest corner of the state, and is a key recreational attraction at DEM's 3,500-acre George Washington Management Area.
"Maintaining and strengthening Bowdish Reservoir Dam is a high priority for the department," DEM Director Jan Reitsma said. "Proper operation of the dam is very important for controlling flooding within the watershed and downstream, and for maintaining the reservoir itself as a valuable ecological and recreational resource." A 2,150-acre watershed, primarily forested, drains into Bowdish Reservoir. The watershed contains many types of small mammals and birds, and the reservoir itself is home to a number of frog and turtle species as well as gamefish such as largemouth bass and chain pickerel.
The Bowdish Reservoir Dam's earthen embankment will be completely reconstructed by reinforcing it to withstand overtopping, constructing a new concrete spillway, and replacing the drain structure and related piping. In addition, a road to provide access for dam maintenance will be built.
Pare Engineering of Lincoln designed the Bowdish Reservoir Dam improvements and an $852,043 construction contract was awarded to Cardi Corporation of Warwick earlier this month. Construction is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2001, depending on weather conditions this winter.
Overall, the dam is currently in poor condition. Its earthen embankment has eroded, the concrete spillway is cracked, the downstream channel is irregular and eroding, and the wooden gate does not function properly.
The Bowdish Reservoir Dam is the second state-owned high hazard dam to be repaired as part of a state initiative to repair the State's dams. Repairs to the Olney Pond Dam in Lincoln Woods State Park were completed in May of 1999. Future plans include improvements to the Stillwater Dam in Smithfield.
In addition, a dam safety task force created by Governor Almond last spring is developing recommendations to ensure that all 510 public and private dams across the state are effectively maintained. The task force is reviewing various documentation, including an evaluation of Rhode Island's dam safety program prepared for DEM last year by Louis Berger Associates, and is formulating strategies to regulate and finance the repair of dams. It will make recommendations by the end of this year regarding funding assistance, changes in the way dams are classified and regulated, inspection and enforcement criteria, and public education concerning dam safety.
Of the 510 dams, 16 are classified as high hazard dams, and 41 are classified as significant hazard dams. Under state law, dam owners are responsible for their safe operation, repair, and maintenance. DEM is charged with inspecting dams to determine their condition, reviewing and approving plans for construction and alteration, and notifying dam owners to make needed repairs. Under a new initiative, DEM is providing information on high and significant hazard dams in each community to the Emergency Management Agency. The EMA, in turn, will provide this information to local communities so they can include it in their emergency response plans for weather emergencies. Information about each dam will include its access points, the owner's name and contact information, and inspection information.