Amherst Residents Will Soon Decide The Fate Of Historic Mill Pond

Mill Pond Has Existed For Village's Entire History

Amherst's mill pond is a primary attraction in the village. Photo: Carolyn Tiry (CC-BY-SA).

Residents of the central Wisconsin village of Amherst face a difficult choice in the upcoming Aug. 12 primary: replace the village dam and see their taxes go up, or drain the community’s historic mill pond.

The 48-acre mill pond on the Tomorrow River has been the recreational focal point of Amherst for its entire history, according to Village President Michael Juris.

“The village incorporated in 1900 and the mill pond was there already,” said Juris. “The mill pond has been the central figure in the downtown part of our village ever since we’ve been a village. So there are many, many people that have a tough time envisioning the village without the mill pond.”

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The mill pond is a local destination for picnicking and fishing. But recently, said Juris, the Department of Natural Resources determined that the dam needs additional flood capacity.

“The Village of Amherst dam was rated as a significant hazard because of the 13 nonresidential structures that are downstream from it,” said the DNR. “Because of that, it must meet criteria to be able to release a certain amount of water compared to a 500-year flood event.”

The village has three options: replace the dam at a cost of $1.25 million, expand the dam’s spillway at a cost of up to $1 million, or abandon the dam and drain the mill pond. A decision has to be made soon or the village could lose a $400,000 grant to cover some of the costs.

Michael Juris said Amherst residents will be asked to decide in an Aug. 12 advisory referendum.

“We work for the people of the village, said Juris. We’re really hoping that they give us a clear indication of which way they feel our village should go with the referendum, and then we will take appropriate steps at that time.”

The Village of Amherst will hold a public hearing on the mill pond July 30.