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News Release

Federal and state officials break ground on project to rehabilitate the Rawson Hill Brook dam in Shrewsbury, Mass.

Diane Petit, Public Affairs Officer (media inquiries)

State and federal officials break ground for the Rawson Hill Brook Dam rehabilitation project in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

SHREWSBURY, Mass., April 12, 2022 – Federal and state officials have broken ground on a $2.3 million project to rehabilitate the Rawson Hill Brook Floodwater Retarding Dam in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The dam, which impounds flow along the Rawson Hill Brook, a tributary to the Cold Harbor Brook, will be upgraded to meet current dam safety standards that will increase both public safety and climate change resiliency and extend the service life by 50 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing $1.5 million in federal funding for the project. The Mass. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Office of Dam Safety, which owns and is responsible for operation and maintenance of the Rawson Hill Brook Floodwater Retarding Dam, is providing $816,000 in state funding.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on April 12th at the dam, which included Congressman James McGovern; Dan Wright, State Conservationist for NRCS in Massachusetts; Robert Lowell, Deputy Chief of DCR’s Div. of Design and Engineering; and William Salomaa, Director of DCR’s Office of Dam Safety.

The rehabilitation project will include lowering a portion the existing dam in order to construct a 190-foot wide stepped roller-compacted concrete auxiliary spillway on the dam embankment and raising the top of the dam to an elevation of 548 feet, among other modifications. The dam needs to be six inches higher to store the runoff from the storm event it was designed to hold back. The work began this week and is expected to be completed by late September.

Since construction of the Rawson Hill Brook dam in 1963, land use changes upstream have increased the quantity of stormwater runoff within the watershed. It is classified as a federal High Hazard dam, a classification given to dams whose failure may cause loss of life or serious damage to homes, commercial buildings, public utilities, highways, or railroads.

This dam is one of 10 floodwater retarding dams in the SuAsCo watershed built by NRCS (formerly the Soil Conservation Service) between 1962 and 1987 and owned and operated by Mass. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation’s Office of Dam Safety.

“These 10 structures are silent protectors for the SuAsCo watershed communities,” said Wright. “The Rawson Hill Brook Dam alone provides approximately $172,100 in average annual flood damage reduction benefits for the Rawson Hill Brook watershed.”

NRCS is a federal agency that works hand-in-hand with the people of Massachusetts to improve and protect soil, water and other natural resources. The agency has offices in USDA Service Centers in Greenfield, Hadley, Holden, Pittsfield, Westford, Wareham and West Yarmouth, which work with local conservation districts and other partners to serve farmers and landowners in their area.


Rawson Hill Brook Dam rehab project groundbreaking