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The town is considering a new committee for the Cheshire Reservoir that would include town departments after a broken gate caused a significant drop in water.

Cheshire Mulling Town-Led Lake Committee

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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The usual water level can be seen on this rock in an image taken on Aug. 7.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Town officials are considering forming a committee comprised of members from several town departments after a recent snafu with the drawdown of Cheshire Reservoir.
 
In anticipation of heavy rains from Tropical Storm Isaias two weeks ago, the decision was made by the Cheshire Lake District to open the floodgates to allow for the expected 4-6 inches of precipitation. 
 
Not only did those numbers not materialize, but one of the gates got stuck in the open position and caused the lake to drop more than 5 inches, which caused problems for boat owners and residents.  The Highway Department and state Department of Conservation and Recreation got involved, and a representative from the state's Office of Dam Safety was called to assess the problem.
 
The issue has since been repaired but the town is looking to cover all its bases when it comes to the hugely popular recreation spot.
 
"I think it would behoove the town to have at least one, if not more than one, alternate to be aware of how the gates function, how to control them, mitigate any potential issues," Selectmen Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi said at Tuesday's meeting. "This was an unusual occurrence and hopefully won't happen again, but at the same time, when there are multiple people that are trained in how to manage the gate and the level of the lake, I think it just puts us in a better position."
 
Cheshire Reservoir is owned by the state Department of Capital Asset Management and managed by the Cheshire Lake District, in conjunction with the DCR and the state Department of Environmental Protection, which have a say in permitting what can and can't go on in and around the lake. It's a complicated power structure Town Administrator Emund St. John IV is hoping to clear up.
 
"While this was going on I had a call with the actual director of dam safety through DCR. One of the things I'm hoping to do is set up a meeting with DCAM ... the lake district, somebody from DEP, DCR, and people from town," he said. "Firstly to delineate who is responsible for what exactly. Also in terms of permits that are needed for drawdowns or anything else on that level that needs to be defined."
 
Francesconi agreed with St. John and delved deeper into potential issues stemming from another lake mistake.
 
"If there is a potential draw down, even just to collaborate and point out that it's going to happen," she said. "Some people would have pulled their boats out of the lake before they got grounded. It gives us an opportunity to notify people downriver that there might be a rise in the water level. It's just a system of checks and balances.
 
"The effects of the drawdown can be so widespread. We haven't confirmed this but we found out that we could potentially as a town be legally liable for any drawdown on that lake even though it's not a decision made by the town."
 
The Board of Selectmen agreed to further discuss the formation of a new Lake Committee at future meetings.

Tags: lakes, ponds,   

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Explorers Guide to the Berkshires: 'Berkshire Destinations'

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Raven Rock in Adams is a remote and challenging destination to reach.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Local authors Jan and Christy Butler penned "Berkshire Destinations," an explorers guide to waterfalls, boulders, vistas and points of interest of the Berkshire Hills and Western Massachusetts.
 
"Berkshire Destinations" is the Butlers' fourth book and the "unconventional explorer's guide" includes 159 chapters that will guide readers to known and obscure waterfalls, glacial erratics, vistas, gardens, cultural institutions, and historical landmarks found in the Western Massachusetts foothills.
 
"Having a hiking guide to vistas, boulders and waterfalls is all well and good, so long as the weather is cooperating," Christy said. "So diversifying does provide a change of pace for rainy days or after completion some alternatives for those who want a change of pace."
 
Christy said he first planned to write a book only about New England statues but after receiving some feedback from friends and readers, he decided to keep his focus in Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts.
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