U.S. Court of Appeals issues decision in Pawtucket Dam case

August 31, 2015 by Anne Nelson

On February 12, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued an opinion ruling against the Secretary of the Interior in the Pawtucket Dam case and upholding FERC’s approval of the dam alteration—removing the pin and flashboard system that has been used since the 1830s. I was notified of this decision as I was on my way to visit the Hoover Dam. Ironic, yes, but even more so as we were shown the six Francis Turbines in the power plant of the dam. The Francis Turbine was invented by James B. Francis who was the chief engineer of the Proprietors of Locks and Canals, the company that was founded in 1792 for the purpose of constructing the waterpower and canal system around the Pawtucket Falls in Lowell, Massachusetts.

The decision was very disappointing for all of the agencies and organizations supporting the National Park Service and the Department of Interior. With limited options, an appeal of the decision was not sought.

With the end of the legal appeal, the National Trust’s work on Pawtucket Dam as a National Treasure will come to a close, but we hope to continue to support the efforts of our local partners as they review the plans for the dam and seek to mitigate impacts to the Pawtucket Dam and the many nationally significant historic resources in Lowell, Massachusetts.

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