2013-07-18 / News

Town mulls mutual water agreement

Reservoir dams considered ‘significant hazard’ by state
By Margo Sullivan

Jamestown will contact North Kingstown officials to discuss resuming a mutual agreement to provide water in the event of a crisis with the town’s supply, said Town Administrator Bruce Keiser.

Earlier this month, the Town Council sitting as water commissioners discussed the mutual agreement after hearing Town Engineer Michael Gray’s report about the emergency plan for the dams at both island reservoirs.

The dam at North Pond and the one at the lower reservoir on the westerly side of North Road have both been classified as significant hazards by the state Department of Environmental Management, Gray said.

The “significant” classification means no loss of human life would result from a dam breach, but the dam failure would result in economic loss and disruption of services. A failure could also potentially jeopardize public health and safety.

In Jamestown’s case, Gray said, the main issue would be loss of the public water supply. According to the report, North Road would be washed out and municipal water in both reservoirs would be lost. But water from both dams would flow though wooded, undeveloped areas and the breach would not cause property damage or death.

The report does note a Jamestown dam failure would be the result of “unusual and unlikely conditions.” However, it goes on to say the goal of the plan is to prepare local officials to take action during uncommon events.

Gray told the councilors the dams in Jamestown are earthen. Although they do require maintenance, the likelihood of a failure is “very low.” But if something did happen, “We would have to work very quickly,” he said.

According to Gray, Jamestown last lost its water supply in 1993.

As a precaution, he suggested an agreement with North Kingstown to provide water to Jamestown in an emergency.

Councilor Gene Mihaly wanted to know if there was anything holding the town back from exploring the possibility of an agreement from North Kingstown.

“Is there any reason we shouldn’t put in a call to North Kingstown?” he asked.

“No,” Gray said. “It should be discussed.”

Keiser agreed. However, he said the problem in the past had been that North Kingstown also had to deal with water emergencies, primarily due to drought. A new agreement would probably say North Kingstown and Jamestown would help each other, provided any water was available.

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