THE THOMASTON DAM
Roger P. Plaskett
Harwinton Town Historian
 

Just four months after this initial report was issued, the serene Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor would become a scene of
carnage and devastation with the Japanese attack plunging us into involvement of World War II.

Not much activity is found regarding the flood control efforts in Thomaston during the next three years.

In March of 1944 it was reported that a bill would soon be introduced to the house to appropriate just over $5,000,000 to the construction of the flood control dam in Thomaston.

5th District Congressman Joseph E. Talbot stated that he would reserve support of the bill until he had enough time to discuss its provisions with his constituents. He then held a conference with all Naugatuck Valley Mayors and Selectmen along with The Army Corp of Engineers during the Easter congressional break. The meeting was held on April 11th, 1944 in Waterbury.

It certainly appears, by the adjacent article, that little input was given from property owners in the proposed flood basin who would be expected to give up their homes, some of which were family owned for multiple generations.

Over the course of the next month, Talbot’s office received many letters of protest of the proposed dam in Thomaston. He sent letters to all the protesters offering to meet with them in Thomaston.

Just days before the meeting, Talbot was quoted as saying “The only opposition to the project, which authorization has already been voted by the house, is in Thomaston.” The meeting was held on Saturday June 3rd.

Just days before the meeting, Talbot was quoted as saying “The only opposition to the project, which authorization has already been voted by the house, is in Thomaston.” The meeting was held on Saturday June 3rd.

Weeks later the opposition became real when Attorney Benedict E. Lyons of Hartford challenged the constitutionality of the Naugatuck River flood control plans. He did so by petitioning two Senators by telegraph to move for a recommittal of the bill to the Senate Interstate Commerce Committee. He identified his involvement as counsel for a Thomaston Trust. He was also a member of an old Thomaston family so he certainly had some skin in the game.

In late fall the Senate debated the entire bill and even into December it continued. The focus of the controversy became whether the Federal Government would have total control of the rivers and streams affected or if the states would have a voice. At one session it was suggested that the entire project in Thomaston be removed from the Omnibus bill but that was quickly rejected.

Soon the opposition became real when Attorney Benedict E. Lyons of Hartford challenged the constitutionality of the Naugatuck River flood control plans. He did so by petitioning two Senators by telegraph to move for a recommittal of the bill to the Senate Interstate Commerce Committee. He identified his involvement as counsel for a Thomaston Trust. He was also a member of an old Thomaston family so he certainly had some skin in the game.

In late fall the Senate debated the entire bill and even into December it continued. The focus of the controversy became whether the Federal Government would have total control of the rivers and streams affected or if the states would have a voice. At one session it was suggested that the entire project in Thomaston be removed from the Omnibus bill but that was quickly rejected.

This project was added to another bill that was active called the War Department Civil Function Bill. This bill, during the war years seemed to have taken priority over the 1936 Omnibus bill. This was also part of Lyons argument, but his objections appear to have gone nowhere. This war bill included funding for flood control dams at Manchester Hollow; South Coventry; Thomaston and several smaller dams and dykes on the Connecticut River.

In 1947 the Senate voted to create a commission of three to negotiate a new New England Flood control Pact. It appears that maybe the states might gain some degree of a voice in the projects.

Arguments continued as usual with so many issues included in these bills regarding Power generating issues and ownership of such, pollution issues and even conservation. The red-tape was massive with this bill because it covered so many projects in New England. Vermont had a very strong voice.

Here it wasn’t until Spring of 1948 when the Connecticut Flood Control Commission picked up the Thomaston Project again and announced that they would “study” the recommendations of the Army Corp of Engineers. This included the 7 miles of railroad track relocation, RT 8 relocation and about 9 miles of telephone and electric wire relocation. The cost, once estimation as about $5,00,000 was now estimated to be about $8,000,000.

In 1949 there was a heavy storm during the January thaw. Waters rose again and an estimated $2,000,000 in damages occurred along the Farmington, Naugatuck and Housatonic Rivers. This prompted yet another meeting in Waterbury of Town Officials from the Naugatuck Valley as well as representatives from the Army Regional Engineers from Boston.

There is no doubt that up to this point that the objections received since the June 1944 hearing caused focus on this project to be less of a priority with the Army Engineers as other projects under the bill were either completed or well underway. Continually rising costs also played a role as approvals by the commission could not keep up. With so many close calls, it seems that it was time for a more aggressive approach. While this meeting was going on, families in the Valley were returning to their homes or having cellars pumped out and repairs being planned. This meeting, it was reported anyway, was to gather public sentiment regarding the construction of the dam. The commission could then report to the Governor who would pass it along to Washington. Representatives from the Towns of Plymouth, Harwinton and Thomaston where lands and homes would be lost, acknowledged that they fully realized that neighbors down river from Thomaston would greatly benefit from the dam construction.

 


 

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