The dam at the east end of Woodbury Pond in Litchfield is shown on June 15, 2021. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

LITCHFIELD — The town of Litchfield is now one step closer to securing a permanent fix to the Woodbury Pond Dam, which began to seep last spring, now that a project to permanently fix the structure was put out to bid on Tuesday.

Shortly after dam keeper Terry Averill discovered the issue, the town began to work with Topsham-based engineering firm Wright-Pierce and geotechnical consultants from Haley & Aldrich to get a better idea of the dam’s issues. Engineers discovered a loss of materials within a 10-foot area of the embankment.

If nothing is done about the seepage, these issues could cause the road across the dam to become impassable while significantly lowering the water level in some of the five Tacoma Lakes. This will not only negatively impact animals and plant life, but also result in lowering surrounding property values.

This led to residents approving an additional $55,000 to the town budget during last June’s town meeting to help with repairs.

And while town officials originally considered a short-term fix of sandbags and pressure grouting while pursuing a permanent fix, they later opted to just install the sandbags and go straight to the permanent fix, saving Litchfield an estimated $150,000.

Sandbags were placed along the east wall of the dam last October, but Averill noted that some seepage was still occurring last December.

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Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels said last month that while the sandbags aren’t perfect, the dam is stable and town officials are continuing to monitor the dam to ensure that it stays that way. On Tuesday, he said the dam’s condition has not changed since then.

Selectmen unanimously approved a $22,500 agreement with Calderwood Engineering in January for the final design and work oversight. While approving the final design and request for proposal was on the May 9 board agenda, officials sought a change to the project before it was sent out to bid.

The project itself involves using a sheet pile cutoff wall, which provides earth retention, to secure the dam, and Weissenfels said they asked engineers to ensure that the wall was more securely attached to the dam. He said these changes would not result in any difference with the overall cost or scope of the project.

With the project sent out to bid on Tuesday, he said the select board will open bids and make a decision during a June 13 meeting.

Because of difficulties purchasing materials and fluctuating costs, the request for proposal will allow contractors an additional year to complete the project.

“The bidders are going to need to procure materials and that is the long pole in the tent, so to speak,” said Weissenfels. “The quicker they can procure them, the sooner they can get the job done, and we hope that they will be able to get those materials and (complete the project) this coming fall.”

The request for proposals does, however, allow for an additional year to complete the project, Weissenfels said.

As the project moves forward, he said the town will keep residents updated via the Tacoma Lakes Association as well as through the town website.

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