LITCHFIELD — Officials have taken the next step in permanently fixing the Woodbury Pond Dam by unanimously approving a $22,500 agreement with Calderwood Engineering of Richmond for final design and work oversight.

The dam began to show signs of seepage last spring when dam keeper Terry Averill discovered that the stone riprap next to the right side of the upstream training wall was settling, and that water began to seep around 7 feet and intensify around 7 1/2 feet.

The town initially began work with Wright-Pierce, a Topsham-based engineering firm, who along with geotechnical consultants from Haley & Aldrich surveyed the dam and discovered a loss of materials within a 10-foot area of the embankment.

From there, a $55,000 town meeting warrant item was added to the municipal budget to repair the dam, which residents approved last June.

The town initially considered tackling the issue by installing sandbags and pressure grouting to keep the area stable for up to two years, and then tackling a permanent fix. However, officials later opted to forego the pressure grouting and just install sandbags and then go directly to the long-term fix, estimating that this move could save the town $150,000.

Litchfield’s Public Works department placed 12 large sandbags along the east wall of the dam in October. During an emergency workshop in December, Averill noted that some seepage was still occurring with the sandbags in place.

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If problems with the dam are left unchecked, it would cause the road across the dam to become impassable and significantly lower the water level in some of the five Tacoma Lakes, resulting in negative impacts on animals, plant life, and surrounding property values.

Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels said Wednesday that the dam is currently stable.

The $22,500 price tag for final design and oversight represents a $152,500 savings compared to Wright-Pierce’s offer, which was $75,000 for the final design, and $100,000 for oversight.

“Those were estimates. They would have been able to refine those numbers a bit,” said Weissenfels, “but we’re confident that Calderwood will be able to do the job that we need for that much lower cost.”

The town’s immediate next steps are to begin the permitting process and get a final design from Calderwood Engineering, at which point the project can be put out to bid. Once this is complete, the town will be able to hold a special town meeting and apply for additional funding.

“Before we can go to the loan bank, we actually have to have a final number,” he said. “We’re getting that, and simultaneously getting the permitting process started, so we can hopefully get this installed this coming fall.”

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