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SPRINGFIELD — The city of Springfield recently announced it is beginning the $3.6 million project to repair and upgrade the Watershops Pond Dam at the historic former Springfield Armory manufacturing site. GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., a multi-disciplinary firm providing ecological, geotechnical, environmental, water, and construction-management services, designed and provided permitting support for this major infrastructure project.

Watershops Pond, which is created by the dam, is surrounded by several historic industrial buildings that were part of the Springfield Armory, the first federal armory and the primary manufacturing center for U.S. military firearms from 1794 until its closing in 1968.

Gardner Construction & Industrial Services Inc. of Chicopee was awarded the general contract to construct the improvements at this high-hazard-potential dam. One of the key elements of the dam-improvement project includes replacing the 65-year-old crest gate. The three-foot-tall, 105-foot-long, flap-like structure can be lowered in advance of major storms and hurricanes to release water and reduce the level of the pond to mitigate potential flooding and protect the safety of the dam and downstream areas. Several other measures will be implemented to bring the dam in compliance with Massachusetts dam-safety regulations and improve access to the gate-control house for city of Springfield personnel.

“One of GZA’s core values is caring for our communities,” GZA CEO Patrick Sheehan said. “As a longtime member of the Springfield community, we were proud to work with the city and Massachusetts regulators to design and permit the improvements for this important project, which will help to continue to protect thousands of residents while preserving a piece of American history.”

In additional to providing geotechnical and other engineering services, GZA worked with city officials to secure approvals for the project with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, MassWildlife, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Springfield Conservation Commission. The project is being funded through a $17 million grant the city was awarded in 2017 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Program.

In advance of construction, GZA has facilitated and overseen a controlled draw-down of the 200-acre pond for inspection of the dam and pre-construction activities. This has also allowed the city and others to inspect and repair infrastructure and remove trash, rubbish, and debris, some of which was deposited there by the 2011 tornado that struck Springfield and other Western Mass. communities.

Dam-safety engineering has been one of GZA’s core disciplines since the company’s founding in 1964. GZA has been involved in designing, constructing, inspecting, and performing seismic evaluations of more than 1,000 dams throughout the U.S., ranging from hydropower dams regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to former mill-pond dams, levee systems, and high-hazard water-supply dams.

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