Over twenty years ago, the city of Springfield opened the floodgates and drew down the water in Lake Massasoit, also known as Watershops Pond. Past drawn downs of the lake have been used to clean up debris and improve water quality. 

Starting this fall and for the next eighteen months, Springfield will once again drain the body of water next to Springfield College. The drawn down will enable the city to clean up debris, remove abandoned cars, and make much-needed repairs to the dam at the west end of the lake. Producer Dave Fraser visited the lake recently and shares this story.  

This segment was originally aired on December 8, 2020.

Read the full transcript:

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: As you drive along Alden Street near Springfield College or pass over the General Edwards Bridge on Roosevelt Ave., you may notice something different about the Water Shops Pond. All the water is gone.

This planned draw down of the pond is to make repairs to the dam at the West End. The city received a significant grant, roughly three million dollars, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s national resilience competition. This project is expected to last about 18 months.

Patrick Sullivan, Springfield Parks, Buildings & Recreation Management: It’s been classified for a high-hazard dam for well over 15 years in the city of Springfield.

And thankfully, Mayor Sarno and Congressman Neal were successful in getting federal monies to do the work that’s necessary to repair this dam. And the result is the draw down now, and then over the winter and through next spring will be going out to bid for the actual construction of the repairs to this dam.

Dave Fraser: Independent from the repairs to the dam, the city also plans to take advantage of the drawdown to organize the removal of underwater debris, much of which wound up in the pond as a result of the 2011 tornado.

Small items such as cans, bottles, spare tires and shopping carts are still visible on the muddy bottom. There were also several automobiles, which the city has already removed.

Patrick Sullivan: I would have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not as bad as the drawdown in 1996. We had a lot more debris, but there, unfortunately, is debris and we’re going to be over the next year cleaning that up.

Dave Fraser: The entire body of water encompasses about 200 acres with seven miles of shoreline, making it the city’s second largest body of water after the Connecticut River.

The dam is located behind One Allen Street and impounds water from the Mill River to form Watershops Pond, also known as Lake Massasoit. The original purpose of the dam was to supply hydropower to the Springfield Armory, which operated this complex until 1968.

Patrick Sullivan: In 1969, the Armory sold the Watershops Pond property to the city of Springfield for — as a recreational aspect, and the dam was included as part of that purchase to the city.

Dave Fraser: According to the city, the dam was constructed in 1857 and was last substantially modified in 1958, following damages to the structure from Hurricane Diane. The Watershops Pond dam also provides significant protection to the south end of Springfield, if the Mill River were to ever flood.

The city completed repairs to its other high-hazard dam last year. And despite the inconvenience to those who use water shop’s pond for recreation, Sullivan says it is work that is long overdue.

Patrick Sullivan: It’s going to be a sacrifice; a lot of people use this for fishing and so forth. But the reward is now this dam will be done for another 150 years.

Editor’s note: In the video, Producer Dave Fraser mentions damage caused by the 2001 tornado. The tornado actually occurred in 2011. We regret the error.