LITCHFIELD — The Upper Purgatory Dam off Whippoorwill Road has needed repairs for a long time, but thanks to a major renovation it got last week, that’s all water over the dam.

“We’re quite proud of what got done,” said Bruce Doyle, president of the Tacoma Lakes Association. “With regular maintenance this dam is good to go for another 20 or 30 years.”

The dam, located about a half-mile southwest of the Hardscrabble Road intersection, recently received a new steel plate reinforcement and new concrete in places where the old masonry was deteriorating. The project, completed by Gorham-based Knowles Industrial Services, cost $28,000. The company, which works on dams all over the state, started the renovations Nov. 16 and had finished up by Friday afternoon, Doyle said.

“It all went well,” he said. “This is a small project for them.”

The dam, roughly 40 feet long and 16 feet across the top, dates back to the 1850s. It has five gates that control the water level in the five ponds that make up the Tacoma Lakes chain: Sand Pond, Woodbury Pond, Jimmy Pond, Buker Pond and Little Purgatory Pond. The chain has shores in Litchfield and Monmouth. Water flowing under the dam makes up a stream that eventually flows into Cobbosseecontee Stream. Dam keeper Terry Averill goes to the dam every day, even in winter, to set the gates to make sure the water in the chain stays at the correct level, Doyle said.

“It’s always a guessing game,” he said.

The lake association boasts more than 250 members who expend most of their energy doing boat inspections to make sure the chain remains free of milfoil, Doyle said.

The dam has been built and rebuilt a number of times. The most recent rehabilitation, which cost about $50,000, was in the 1990s when the association still owned the dam, Doyle said.

The association gave the dam to the town in the early 2000s, and it went pretty much ignored after that, Doyle said. The dam continued to deteriorate to a point where one of the gates wouldn’t open.

“It got to the point where there was some serious dilapidation,” Doyle said.

Voters at this year’s Town Meeting, however, agreed to fund improvements to the dam and to double yearly savings for continued maintenance. Doyle said that maintenance will be easier now because of the upgrades.

Knowles crews built a cofferdam and pumped it dry to allow access to the base of the dam, Doyle said. The stream bed just behind the dam is covered with wood that dates back to the dam’s original construction.

“As long as the wood stays under water, it will never rot,” Doyle said. “It was fascinating to see down there. It was just fascinating to watch it being done.”

Doyle said local contractors helped where they could at little or no charge. The contractors undertook a number of projects, including chipping brush around the dam and moving rocks that help stabilize the banking.

“Everyone was great about giving us a good deal,” Doyle said. “It really saved the town a ton of money.”

The dam is in better shape than it has been in a number of years and it is more likely to stay that way, Doyle said.

“They have much better materials nowadays,” he said. “It will outlive me. That’s all that matters.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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