The Value of Water: Part one – Vote of the Whitin Reservoir Watershed District

83 yea, 5 nay was the vote last night of the members of the Whitin Reservoir Watershed District to purchase their dam at a cost of $320,000. I am told the Whitin’s meeting did NOT include consideration of the Manchaug Pond dam in their land taking.

Here’s the report as recorded in the Worcester Telegram this morning:

DOUGLAS — Proprietors of the Whitin Reservoir Watershed District last night voted 83-5 in favor of taking by eminent domain 387 acres that includes the reservoir and the dam.

Interface Fabrics Group, stockholder of the owners of record Mumford River Co. and Hydro Projects, agreed to the land-taking and to grant a deed for all rights to the watershed district for $320,000.

Don J. Virostek told district members last night that if they did not go forward with taking the land, Interface would likely petition the Office of Dam Safety to breach the dam and it would return to being a river as it was in 1840.

He also said that once the purchase and sale agreement is signed, the splash boards controlling the flow of water into the Mumford River would be put in place. (MPA file photo)

The district, established in May 2008, will have the right to enforce trespassing laws. It will also be liable in the event of a dam catastrophe. The liability will be limited to $100,000, as the district is a “municipality within a municipality,” Mr. Virostek explained.

Proprietors will repay a 15-year loan for $320,000 through tax assessments. The first year, the rate will be 62 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, John P. Bombara said.

— Ruth Vecchione

Comments 10

  1. Writer,
    What is your feelings on how this decesion of the Reservoir Watershed is and how this could effect Lake Manchaug? Does this mean the lake is possibly going to face the low levels again and suffer fish and other species loss in the near future?
    Thank you for a response.

  2. I do not see the decision of Whitin’s district having an effect on Manchaug Pond. The care and preservation of Manchaug Pond is under the watchful eyes of the Manchaug Pond Association, MassDEP, MassWildlife, Mass Office of Boating and Fishing Access, the Sutton Conservation Commission, Douglas Conservation Commission, Senator Moore, Rep. Kujawski and Rep. Callahan and many others.

    As we saw last year and this year, Manchaug is being operated separately and differently from its sister reservoir and I would expect that to continue as the Whitin Reservoir Watershed District takes ownership of their dam and as we advocate for Manchaug Pond.

    In addition to the health of our lake, the flow downstream for the river’s health and use is also important – this is addressed by the Order of Conditions issued by the Sutton Conservation Commission and by Manchaug’s updated low-level gate which maintains a constant minimal flow.

    Thanks for the question!

  3. Why in the world would the Whitin Water District Have any discussion or consideration of land taking on Manchaug Pond? The Sutton Town Selectmen let the Manchaug Pond Water District slip away by the two rejection votes of its formation a couple of years ago. It is now going to be very intresting to see how the management of the two bodies of water will look in the upcomming future, as one now will be landowner managed, and the others future is still quite uncertain. Good luck to all!

  4. You ask, “Why in the world would the Whitin Reservoir Watershed District have any discussion or consideration of land taking on Manchaug Pond?” The primary interest is in the dam and the waterrights that go with the dam.

    The value is in the water. Both Manchaug and Whitin feed the Mumford River. Manchaug’s water flows through Stevens Pond, down Manchaug Center at the waterfall into Douglas where it joins Whitin’s water to flow into Gilboa Pond, and then Lackey Pond. Along the way, the water is used by the wastewater treatment plants of the old Guilford mill (when in use) and the town of Douglas. In the past, the dam owner was required to maintain a minimum 16 cubic foot per second flow which was coordinated evenly between the two ponds.

    DEP ordered Manchaug’s flashboards in. Whitin’s District states they will put their boards in once they have ownership. Steven’s is closed up tight below us as they are also low. Maybe the Tucker Pond beaver could send a bit of water downstream! Or maybe the new owner of the mill won’t need much water. or Douglas will get more rain than Manchaug Pond has been getting…

    Actually, it is no joke and the MPA continues to put a lot of time into the short term-short term goal of keeping the boards in and the long term goal of securing a new owner for the Manchaug Dam. Sutton Selectman did vote twice against a district for Manchaug Pond before all this craziness started. We’ll see where our out of the box thinking/campaign takes us when the dust finally settles.

  5. Exactly! Just remember that as the Conservation Comissions are concerned with the historic water levels in the ponds they must be concerned with the flows in the river. If anyone thinks the water levels will superceed the minimum river flow I think they will be in for a suprise!Just as the ponds followed the historic rule for water level I think this will also be true for historic flows from from each water body when things are all said and done. Good Luck to all!

  6. Where did the sale price of $320,000 for the purchase of Whitin’s Dam come from? How did the parties involved arrive at this number?

  7. $320,000 is the offer made by the Management Committee of the Whitin Reservoir Watershed District to the dam owner. It was approved by the district members and happily accepted by the dam owner.

    As an MPA Board member pointed out at our Thursday night meeting, the people of Whitins are paying a price of about 18% of the assessed value. Recently, another watershed district paid $400,000 for their dam to a different dam owner so I suppose Whitin’s felt good coming in lower.

    Manchaug Pond has been a whole different story than Whitins with a whole different group involved! Our assessed value and the taxes the dam owner reports paying in Sutton is next to nothing in comparison – actually it is lower than the taxes paid on your home! In 2006 the dam owner reported paying $22,338.75 in taxes to Douglas for Whitins and only $1,858.64 for Manchaug to Sutton. MPA’s consideration when hoping to form a district never viewed cost as a problem as we looked at the ownership transfer with the proverbial $1.00 in mind. As “Good Luck to All!” points out, the Selectman in Sutton have a vision of their own for Manchaug Pond… we’ll work with them to see it fulfilled.

  8. Better yet, make it a point to tell someone what a jewel of a resource Manchaug Pond is to you, the community and the Commonwealth- and I am sure by the end of the conversation they’ll be nodding their head in agreement. You’ll see that not only do you and your lake neighbors and campers share that vision but also the people at Steven’s, Tucker, and other lakes, fisherman and recreational boaters who visit us, the man that sells kayaks, our community leaders, etc., etc….

    Share the vision!

    Manchaug Pond is ours to preserve.

  9. Agree with all of the above. But looking from the outside in, let’s cut to the chase. This really comes down to money, real dollars, and the reluctance to spend it. Even if it was sold for $1.00 someone will have to belly up to the bar going foward, to maintain the dam and compliance to state regulation (DEP and ODS). In the near future we all know it will not be the Commonwealth nor the Town of Sutton. Many others have faced this same issue and it has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the abbutting landowners like it or not. Good Luck to All!

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