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State acts to shore up Gorham dam

GORHAM — The owners of the Gorham Dam on the Androscoggin River, about two miles south of Berlin, say the possibility for a breach discovered there recently is “a cause for concern,” but is not expected to lead to a flood emergency.

A diver working for Brookfield Renewable Energy Group on Thursday examined repair work that was done recently in an attempt shore up the “timber crib” dam and discovered that it didn’t take. The company then opened the dam’s floodgates Thursday and lowered the dam pond’s water level to relieve pressure.

Gorham Dam is considered “low hazard,” meaning there would be little, if any, expected impact on people and property downriver should the dam fail, according to the company.

“As a result of an inspection today at the Gorham Dam, we discovered signs that are cause for concern, therefore, we are lowering the pond to facilitate further assessment.“ Dennis Turcotte, operations manager for the Gatineau, Quebec-based Brookfield said Thursday evening in a news release.

“There is no dam failure, there is no actual breach,” Brookfield spokesman Jim Martin said earlier in the day, adding that any floodwaters would stay within the riverbanks, should a breach occur.

Turcotte said the extent of repairs needed would not be known until the company completes its site assessment.

Earlier Thursday, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services implemented an emergency action plan as a precaution, and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch because of what Brookfield called “minor leaks” at the dam.

Brookfield spokesmen yesterday would not estimate the size of the problem area, and did not have information on the dam’s age.

New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Mark Hayward contributed to this report.


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