Council approves improvement near Weymouth Herring Run 6-12-17

Council approves improvement near Weymouth Herring Run

An aging bridge that straddles the Weymouth Herring Brook on Commercial Street and a flood control gate in the channel where the alewives migrate to Whitman's Pond during the spring will both be replaced through a $1.1appropriation by town council, Monday, June 5.

By Ed Baker
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Posted Jun 12, 2017 at 1:39 PM
An aging bridge that straddles the Weymouth Herring Brook on Commercial Street and a flood control gate in the channel where the alewives migrate to Whitman's Pond during the spring will both be replaced through a $1.1 million appropriation by town council, Monday, June 5.

Councilors approved transferring $500,000 from "free cash" to match an equal amount being provided through Mass DOT's municipal small bridge program to replace the span.

Multiple state reports have concluded the span is structurally deficient due to severe deterioration of the bridge deck, as well as deficient abutments, according to Mayor Robert Hedlund.

The bridge is not in danger of an immediate collapse, according to DPW engineer Andrew "Chip" Fontaine.

"The state came up with a small bridge program and we are fortunate to have been approved for a $500,000 grant, which will fund the engineering permit phase," he said. "We are looking ahead to a full replacement of the bridge. That is why we are here at the mayor's request to look for another $500,000 to match what we are getting from MassDOT to cover the costs of replacing the bridge."

Fontaine said the construction would require 20 months of work.

"The sooner we get started on it the better," he said. "We need to be mindful of the herring spawning season and things like that."

The river herring, or alewives, migrate from the ocean to Whitman's every spring to mate and lay eggs before returning to the sea a few months later, according to the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

District 6 Councilor Michael Smart said he is concerned about impacts on traffic during construction.

"Will there be any nighttime work," he said.

Fontaine said it is presently unclear what impacts there will be to motor vehicle traffic when construction gets underway or whether work would be done at night.

"Those are questions I don't have answers to," he said. "We have been investigating a closing of that roadway section down. We will complete the removal of the bridge deck and for some period of time that section of the road will be closed down. A 20-month construction schedule is a rough and preliminary estimate. We will keep everyone appraised."

Replacement of Weymouth Herring Run flood control gate

The council unanimously approved a transfer of $600,000 from the free cash account to fund the replacement of a flood control gate and to improve the migration of smelt through the Back River by removing sediment from the basin.

Fontaine said the construction of a new gate at the lower end of the herring run flood control channel would replace a swinging gate.

"This is one we have been working on for a couple of years," he said.

Fontaine said the new gate would allow the river herring to migrate safely to Whitman's Pond and not get sidetracked into a tunnel near Jackson Square.

In May of 2011, upwards to 10,000 herring migrating to Whitman's are believed to have died in a flood control pipe when the fish were sidetracked into a tunnel near Jackson Square.

Weymouth officials previously said a heavy flow of water came through the tunnel because some rods in a flood control gate fractured and the alewives mistook the pathway as a route to the pond.

Fontaine said the new flood control gate would be managed by the DPW and river herring wardens to ensure safe passage for the alewives during their migration.

"When there are no herring coming up from the ocean, the gate will be opened and water will flow to the Back River," he said.

Fontaine said the DPW expects to complete a design and obtain permits for the project before the end of the year.

"We would go out to bid for construction in February 2018," he said.

Fontaine said construction would likely start in July 2018 and be completed three months later.

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