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Owner of Brentwood Dam Sued to Make Repairs

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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The Attorney General’s office has recently requested that a Rockingham County Superior Court judge find that dam-owner Brentwood Dam Ventures LLC is in violation of various state laws in relation to its Exeter River Dam on Mill Road in Brentwood, New Hampshire.

The state is also requesting that the judge require the owners to either come up with a repair plan for the structure, or have it removed completely.

Exeter River Dam History

Built in 1927, the aging hydroelectric dam has become a growing concern for state officials and local Brentwood residents. From 1981 to 2017, the dam was put under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, with operations ceasing in 1998. When released from FERC, the state took over jurisdiction; however, Brentwood Dam Ventures acquired the dam in 2009.

According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Department of Environmental Services performed a visual inspection of the dam in June 2017, which revealed several deficiencies including significant cracks along the upstream concrete face, downstream face and various leaks. The inspection also revealed that the gate steams and boards had rotted, in addition to the gate itself being stuck partially open and collecting debris.

The findings ultimately caused the DES to change the dam’s status from low to a significant hazard structure, as it was also predicted that should a breach occur, there would be potential impacts to at least two residencies.

In a response to the findings, Naoto Inoue, principal of Brentwood Dam Ventures, said the issue came down to money and was something that the company couldn’t afford—repairs or the dam’s removal as both operations were expected to cost thousands of dollars.

In the same year, the Fremont-Exeter River Dam Association was formed by various residents from Fremont and Brentwood in an attempt to keep the dam from being removed. The impact of its removal could result in negative outcomes on residential wells.

Regardless of Inoue’s financial issues or the association, DES issued a letter of deficiency on Aug. 8, 2017, and an administrative order on Sept. 6, 2018, requiring that Brentwood Dam Ventures clear all backed-up debris and remove the gate panel and stem completely between Oct. 1-15, 2018.

Additionally, the owner was also required to submit an Emergency Action Plan to DES within 60 days of the order, as well as find a qualified engineer consultant by March 1 of this year, to further investigate and evaluate any remaining issues, leaks, degradation, cracking and stability of the dam.

Other reports tell that Inoue tried to sell the dam for $1 after receiving the orders, but no deal was reached. On the contrary, experts at the time estimated that it could cost up to $1 million to complete repairs on the dam.

In May, DES filed a petition for an injunction in Rockingham Superior Court against Brentwood Dam Ventures to submit its Emergency Action Plan to repair or remove the dam by Dec. 1, 2021.

Steve Doyon, administrator for the DES Dam Safety and Inspection Division, noted in a phone interview that he anticipates the next step as being a “battle between attorneys,” should Inoue not want to comply with the judge’s decision.

However, according to RSA 482:89, the court could also impose a misdemeanor fine of no more than $20,000 for each violation, with each day of violation possibly constituting a separate offense. A civil penalty could also be imposed not to exceed $20,000 upon petition of the attorney general, and an administrative fine of $2,000 for each offense could also be levied. According to the RSA, Inoue would have 45 days to respond.

What’s Happening Now

Filed just this month, the state has requested that a judge order Brentwood Dam Ventures to follow through with the administrative order given just a few months ago, as well as complete the emergency action plan with 30 days of any received court order, in addition to requiring that Brentwood Dam Ventures also maintain, repair or remove the dam within 45 days.

Although Inoue has repeatedly told the Union Leader that his company cannot afford the repairs, if action isn’t taken with the 45-day period, the state will continue to encourage the court to allow the state to remove the infrastructure at the company’s expense.

   

Tagged categories: Demolition; Infrastructure; Inspection; Lawsuits; Locks and dams; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair

Comment from Austin Goodwyn, (8/22/2019, 9:27 AM)

This sounds like a great example where damned if if you do damned if you don't. The owner stated they do not have to funds to address the dam and yet they are still being prosecuted for fixing it. This will likely end that company.


Comment from Austin Goodwyn, (8/22/2019, 9:27 AM)

This sounds like a great example where damned if if you do damned if you don't. The owner stated they do not have to funds to address the dam and yet they are still being prosecuted for fixing it. This will likely end that company.


Comment from Thomas Matlock, (8/22/2019, 9:40 PM)

Austin, I think it would depend on the ownership history and if the 'Venture' of the dam wasn't a scam.


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