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Heavy Rains Prompt Lowering of Dam

December 23, 2018

LOWELL -- The Merrimack River rose high enough from Friday’s heavy rains to prompt the lowering of the Pawtucket Dam, but not enough to raise concerns about flooding.

City Manager Eileen Donoghue said the initial prediction was for the river to rise to 50.2 feet by 8 a.m. Sunday. She said the city has an agreement with Enel Green Power that all five zones of the Pawtucket Dam be lowered when the height of the river reaches 50 feet.

“Because of the prediction, all zones were lowered yesterday (Friday) out of caution,” Donoghue said Saturday morning.

She and Mayor William Samaras said there were no concerns that the river would flood its banks. Samaras said homes in high water table areas close to the river could experience some water in their basements.

Donoghue said Fire Chief Jeffrey Winward and the Office of Emergency Management were monitoring conditions and would respond accordingly.

According to a hydrologic graph shared by Winward and OEM Saturday morning, the river was not expected to surpass the 50 foot action level. The water height was just over 46 feet as of 9:30 a.m. Saturday. It is not considered to be at minor flood stage until it reaches 52 feet.

Winward said he drove through Pawtucketville at 10:30 a.m. Saturday to check on the river level. As of that time, he said the dam was still down and the rain was predicted to stop after noon Saturday.

“The Merrimack River appears to be lower than average near the Boathouse,” Winward said in an emailed update to Donoghue that was shared with The Sun. “There is some minor street and yard flooding in the Clay Pit Brook area.”

As of about noon Saturday, he said the updated prediction was for the river to rise to 50 feet by late Sunday night, and there was no further rain forecasted in the near future.

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.

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