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Update on PM’s Most Endangered Pawtucket Dam, Lowell: Feds sue feds over historic Lowell dam

LOWELL — Two federal agencies that have been fighting with each other over Boott Hydropower’s controversial project to install a new inflatable flashboard at Pawtucket Dam are now heading to federal court.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to review FERC’s earlier decision to allow Enel Green Power North America to replace the existing wooden flashboard system on Pawtucket Dam with a rubber-made pneumatic one. Enel, which is based in Andover, is the parent company of Boott Hydro, which owns Pawtucket Dam.

The lawsuit comes from the U.S. Department of the Interior, under which national historical parks operate, said Peter Aucella, assistant superintendent of Lowell National Historical Park.

The Justice Department is representing the Interior Department in this case.

“The matter has been referred to the appellate court for review and therefore, Boott Hydropower does not have a comment at this time,” Enel Green Power North America said through a spokesman Wednesday.

FERC also declined to comment.

Lowell park officials had been opposed to the flashboard-replacement project because it believes the proposed pneumatic system, which would be bolted into the bedrock, would damage the historic dam. After FERC approved the flashboard project, the Interior Department filed an appeal with the agency. FERC then dismissed the Interior Department’s plea to reconsider the commission’s earlier decision in September, saying that the department failed to prove the new crest gate would result in irreversible damage to the dam.

Taking FERC to court was the only avenue left for the Interior Department to pursue to have FERC’s decision overturned, Aucella said.