Potential dam catastrophe leads to Mass. lawsuit

Nick Rees Nov. 4, 2008, 7:31am

Martha Coakley (D)

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) -- The structural integrity of two dams in Taunton, Mass., that hold back the 250 acre Lake Sabbatia has lead the attorney general to file a lawsuit requesting emergency measures be taken.

Jefferson Development Partners, LLC, the registered owner of the Morey's Bridge Dam, and David L. Murphy of Chestnut Hill, the company's principal, were named in the lawsuit. The second dam named in the suit is a temporary structure built 25 feet upstream of the Morey's Bridge Dam in July 2007.

"Our number one concern is the safety of those living and working downstream of Lake Sabbatia. Our goal in filing this lawsuit is not only to hold accountable the owner of these two structures, but also to ensure the safety of those who live near the lake. Our office will continue to work with local officials and other affected parties to attempt to reach a long-term solution," Attorney General Martha Coakley said.

The Democratic attorney general filed the complaint in Suffolk Superior Court under the Massachusetts Dam Safety Act, the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and the Massachusetts Waterways Statute.
The lawsuit alleges that Jefferson Development and Murphy have failed to comply with the Office of Dam Safety's issued orders of repair for the dam.

An injunction is sought through to complaint to require Jefferson Development and Murphy to fix the dams and pay civil penalties. The complaint seeks immediate steps to be taken to fix the risks of the two dams.

Jefferson Development purchased the 130-foot long, 12-foot high earthen Morey's Bridge Dam as well as adjacent property in 2005. The dam was classified as unsafe by the Office of Dam Safety, which has issued orders of repair for the last two years that Jefferson Development and Murphy have failed to fulfill.

The second dam, constructed because of problems related to the Morey's Bridge Dam's deterioration, was built by local residents with Jefferson Development's assistance but without a qualified engineer's supervision. The dam was meant to raise the level of the lake until the Morey's Bridge Dam could be completed.

The complaint also alleges that Jefferson Development is in violation of a February 2008 Administrative Consent Order that the company entered into with MassDEP to evaluate the temporary dam's structural integrity and provide a plan in the event of a catastrophic dam failure.

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