Sat Apr 2023

High Water*

A view north toward Smith Point. Note trees in water. Middle: Southern shore of Smith Point, and Heron Rock. Bottom: View looking east from the center of Smith Point.

These photos of Smith Point were taken on March 8, 2011, a day after the winter’s snow finally melted. The massive melt, hastened by a day of rain, left the pond spilling over its banks in many places. A quarter of Smith Point was under water.

With the water so alarmingly high, and last year’s floods still fresh in memory, the sluggish flow of Chester Brook, the discharge channel for Hardy Pond, has become a matter of renewed concern. For years, the channel has been filling with sediment, but the two 100-year floods of March 2010 appear to have brought the flow almost to a full stop.

There has been discussion among City officials about cleaning out the channel, and an outside engineering study has recently recommended doing so. Of course, a project like this cannot be accomplished overnight. Riparian rights must be determined, plans drawn up, Conservation Commission approval obtained, funding found, and bids let before actual work can begin. The question is, can a sense of urgency be invoked?

Since last year’s major floods, the water level of Hardy Pond has been on average higher, the pond has spilled over its banks more often, and high water has receded more slowly — all directly tied to silting of the brook. The situation could lead to ever more destructive flooding if we’re hit by another extreme weather event, a possibility we can’t rule out in this era of climate change.

In addition to clearing of the outlet channel, the outside study outlined other steps to reduce flooding risk in the large Hardy Pond watershed. In an ideal world, they’d all be given priority as a matter of public safety, and completed without delay — so pond abutters and area residents could feel secure in their homes once again. That can happen only if the mayor and city council are aware of the issue and fully understand it. Getting that message across is our responsibility, all of us who care about Hardy Pond.

It is instructive to read what the study’s authors say about Chester Brook, revealing how relatively little it would take to remedy the situation: