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Some Facts About New Hampshire’s Infrastructure:New Hampshire has approximately 17,000 miles of state and town roads, turnpikes and interstate highways. There are 3,795 bridges in the state. As of 2010, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation plowed more than 800 lane miles of roads and put down 180,000 tons of salt for snow and ice control annually.The state was given a “C” grade by the American Society of Civil Engineers for the condition of its roads and bridges. New Hampshire was rated among the worst in the country for the poor condition of its bridges by Transportation For America. On average, bridges are older in New Hampshire than those in the rest of the country. There are hundreds of bridges on the so-called “red list,” which means that the bridges have major structural problems and need to be repaired or replaced.The state also has a poor record when it comes to public transportation. New Hampshire has no comprehensive rail system and is rated 42nd in terms of investment in public transportation according to the State Department of Transportation.The majority of New Hampshire’s infrastructure funding comes from vehicle registration fees and gas taxes. The state takes out fewer bond loans than other states and considers its funding a “pay as you go” system. The gas tax, the lowest in New England, has not been raised since 1991. The 2011 Legislature did away with a motor vehicle fee increase. That change has meant more $30 million a year in cuts to DOT.The $800 million expansion of I-93 from Salem to Manchester began in 2006, but has been delayed several times because of a lack of funding. Supporters of the expansion say it will update one of the country’s most congested highways and bring needed tourism revenue to the more isolated and less economically robust northern part of the state. Traffic on I-93 has increased 600 percent since the highway was built in the 1960s and approximately 80,000 cars now drive on it each day.Summary provided by StateImpact NH

Failing N.H. Dams Could Bring Flood Of Costs, With No Help In Sight

NHPR/Hannah McCarthy

New Hampshire’s deteriorating roads and bridges - and how to invest in them - are major questions for lawmakers this year. But whatever the funding, one critical piece of the state’s infrastructure – private dams – likely won’t see a penny.  

New Hampshire’s dams received a C- in this year’s infrastructure report card. That’s par for the course - most of the state’s infrastructure got the same rating, or worse. But most of the state’s infrastructure is taken care of by the state. Most dams are on their own. Like the old dam at Moeckel Pond in Windham.

"When we get over to the spillway here," Young gestures to the cement structure spanning a small brook, "you’ll be able to actually see the rocks through the concrete, where it’s thin and chipped. So, you’re standing on rocks and dirt."

Norm Young is standing on a run-down dam not far from his house. Up until six years ago, this dam supported the centuries-old Moeckel Pond. But years of neglect and absent owners forced the removal of a section of the dam – and with it, the removal of the pond. Diana Fallon, who also lives on Moeckel Pond, remembers when the 40 acres were drained.


Credit NHPR/Hannah McCarthy; Norm Young
Moeckel Pond now, and Moeckel Pond seven years ago.

"We didn’t own the pond at that point in time. One of the people who inherited," Fallon explains, "he was tasked with coming out here and opening up the spillway and then taking out the stop logs that were at the bottom to finish draining the pond." 

People who lived around the pond were upset - their backyard was drained without a public hearing. But the pond and dam were private, and had fallen into total disrepair after the owner passed away. 

"The people who inherited it said, if you form a non-profit, we’ll give you the property," Fallon says, "and you use it to restore the pond and the dam. And, so, that’s been our charge for the last six years."   

They formed a group – the Friends of Moeckel Pond – to raise the money for a new dam – and that cost has risen to over half a million dollars in the past six years.

Most of the state’s more than 2,500 dams are private, so the Moeckel predicament is not uncommon. Jim Gallagher, the chief engineer with the New Hampshire dam bureau, says that it can be difficult - and really expensive - for private owners to take care of their dams. The cost of neglecting a dam, though, can be a lot worse. Like when the private Meadow Pond Dam failed in the lakes region 20 years ago.


"When it failed, it caused 8 million dollars of damage downstream," Gallagher explains, "essentially destroying route 40 and homes downstream of it, and there was a loss of life." 

Gallagher says that the state has been getting the funding they need to cover inventory repairs and overhauls year-by-year. But private owners don’t have the same help. A state loan fund doesn’t have enough money in it to dole out loans, and private grants are pretty much only available for dam removal, not upkeep. Of course, that also means removing whatever that dam was holding back. And that’s not always what residents want.


Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Click and drag the image to explore the old dam at Moeckel Pond

"The grant attitude is, oh, all dams should be taken out," says Norm Young, standing on what used to be the bank of the pond, looking out over scrubby undergrowth, "Well, that’s not true. It’s a case-by-case situation. Some dams, it’s probably for safety and for wildlife, it’s a good thing. Other dams, it’s a terrible loss." 

For Norm Young and the Friends of Moeckel Pond, building a new dam means restoring an ecosystem and creating a public space. The new dam, when finished, will be named, the Marston-Finn Conservation Dam, after a couple who have donated significant funds to the project.

Credit NHPR/Hannah McCarthy
The remains of the dam at Moeckel Pond

After the pond was drained in 2011, residents found empty turtle shells scattered across the dry bed, dragonflies and heron disappeared, mosquitoes, mice and ticks moved in in droves.

Standing on the old dam, looking out over the place where the pond was, Norm Young holds his photo album against the landscape.

"I miss that…" Norm gestures to a photo of of Moeckel Pond on a sunny day, "It’s the birds, the ducks – I have never, in my life, seen so many ducks... eh – eh – it’s just… it’s natural, it’s beautiful, it’s not city."

Restoring Moeckel Pond won’t be a one-time cost. The new dam will come with years – probably centuries – of expensive, unsubsidized maintenance. So the neighborhood agreed to a tax one another, to set up a sustainable fund. 

That’s a bunch of Granite Staters... asking for new taxes… all to bring back a dam.  



Hannah McCarthy first came to NHPR an intern in 2015, returned as a Fellow the following year and then bounced around as a reporter and producer before landing as co-host of Civics 101. She has reported on everything from the opioid epidemic to State House politics to haunted woods of New Hampshire.

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