Banner03
Print

15 year effort to restore Town Brook gets $1.5 million push 7-27-17

15 year effort to restore Town Brook gets $1.5 million push

Wicked Local Plymouth

By Frank Mand
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted Jul 27, 2017 at 1:00 PM
It's easy to be complacent about the 15-year effort to restore historic Town Brook to its pre-industrial vitality.

PLYMOUTH – It's easy to be complacent about the 15-year effort to restore historic Town Brook to its pre-industrial vitality: it is after all, just water over the dams.

To be specific its water that no longer is going over the Billington Street Dam and the Off Billington Street Dam and the Plymco Dam and now – with a promise of $1.5 million from the National Oceanographic and Aeronautics Administration (NOAA) - the last major impediment to fish passage on the brook, the unsafe Holmes Dam will be removed.

Since 2002 the town's Department of Marine and Environmental Affairs supported by an impressive assortment of federal and state agencies has painstakingly stitched together a vision of a more user-friendly, more fish-friendly, more environmentally sound and ultimately safer Town Brook by removing dams, installing new storm water management infrastructure and improving amenities along this famous waterway.

Here's how NOAA describes its rationale for contributing $1.5 million for the last of the four Town Brook dam removal projects, all of which the agency has participated in.

The Holmes Dam removal, the press release from the federal agency says, "will remove a 16-foot high, 275-foot-long high-hazard dam and a bridge in poor condition.

"This will open access for river herring to spawning habitat, leading to a predicted increase in the fish run of 200,000 additional fish."

No one really knows the number of herring that once swam upstream to spawn during the early days of the Pilgrim settlement, but when the state counted the herring in the dammed brook in the early 1970s that number had dwindled to 40,000.

The various dam removal projects, storm water management structures and property acquisitions that have taken place since 2002 have pushed those herring counts, at times, up to 200,000. And now NOAA estimates that once the Holmes Dam has been removed that number could double.

"The removal will also protect surrounding infrastructure," NOAA's release states, "and will reduce flood vulnerability during extreme weather events by increasing floodplain storage volume."

It won't just be fish and homeowners that will benefit from an unobstructed and safer river. The full project includes amenities that will attract visitors further and further up the brook.

After hearing the news from NOAA Gould explained some of the additional benefits of this project.

"It will include new sidewalks and trail improvements down to Willard Place, enhancing the connection between Jenney Park and the Holmes Playground," Gould said.

"On the northern side of Newfield Street," Gould added, "a formal parking area will be constructed near the existing sub-station and landscaping and trail improvements will be done to connect to the trail that runs towards Off Billington Street and Plymco."

They could have ignored the skateboard park and the basketball court there now, Gould told the Old Colony, "but the DEMA has applied for state PARC Grant funds to reconstruct both features and add new paths within the existing park.

"If that funding is received and local match is provided," Gould said, "we would include those components within the overall project scope. We should know in early fall about the grant application."

Gould is almost matter of fact in describing this latest project and how it fits into the vision he first articulated more than 15 years ago. But just a list of those various individual projects is impressive.

• In 2001 the Newfield Street Fishway was rehabilitated, allowing more herring to make it to their spawning grounds.

• In 2002 The Billington Street dam "became the first proactive dam removal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

• In 2004 Brewster Gardens was reconstructed and along with new park amenities and enhancements including "the dredging of Town Brook and the lowering of the Water Street weir to improve fish passage."

• In 2009 the town acquired the Crawley Woodlands Preserve. Protecting the town's Lout Well and helping to preserve the spawning grounds of herring that use Town Brook.

• From 2003 to 2009 storm water remediation projects along Town Brook were completed, increasing containment of storm water runoff, improving water quality in Billington Sea, Town Brook and "ultimately Plymouth Harbor."

• In 2014 the Off Billington Street Dam was removed, improving water quality and fish passage.

• In 2015 the Plymco dam and its dilapidated mill buildings were removed and "the scenic area was restored to its natural beauty."

• In 2015 the Water Street Bridge was replaced and a rock ramp built "restoring anadromous fish passage."

• And now the funds have been approved to remove the last dam on Town Brook, the Holmes Dam on Newfield Street.

What does it take to sustain a vision for 15 years?

Gould at first jokes and says "a faulty short term memory," adding that by necessity they had to focus on one project at a time, get it done, and not be distracted by what they hoped to accomplish long-term.

Then, reflecting more seriously, the DMEA director credited his staff and the important partners at the state and federal level the town worked with over the past 15 years.

"We've been very fortunate to not only have great staff - Nate Cristofori and Kim Tower put together a great application - but also partners that have been with us the whole way," Gould said. "Partners like NOAA and Eric Hutchins, and Eric Derleth from the U.S Fish and Wildlife, and Nick Wildman and all the people at the Mass Division of Ecological Resources."

Just on the Holmes Dam's planning phase – before the announcement of the NOAA funding – the town has been working with Eversource, the Plymouth DPW, the Massachusetts DER, NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On past dam removal projects you can add partners American Rivers, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Fish America Foundation, the Gulf of Maine Council, Mass DCR, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Plimoth Plantation, Restore America's Estuaries, the Nature Conservancy, USGS, Coastal Zone Management, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the Massachusetts Bays Program.

"Usually you don't get a chance to work with the same people, same agencies, but everyone shared the same vision and had the same commitment," Gould said. "That's what it really took to make this happen over 15 years: commitment."

And when it's over, when the Holmes Dam is gone, the Newfield Street Bridge has been repaired, and 400,000 herring are able to make it upstream to spawn, Gould has his eye on a few other projects.

"There are several potential land acquisitions in the watershed that would protect water quality in the brook and in the harbor that would be beneficial," Gould said, "along with dredging Jenney Pond, as it has over 50 years of accumulated sediment in it."

Gould would also like to see bypass pools at the mill that would improve fish passage and be a tourist attraction, and possibly restoration of the cranberry bogs near Morton Park that currently discharge to the brook and ultimately Plymouth Harbor.

For now, the focus is on the Holmes Dam, and the Newfield Street Bridge Gould says. It's been 15 years, and the end is in sight.

Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM.

From Forum

Herring Public Forum Exemption to Wetland Act for herring protection
DaveC > 25-July-2016

Herring Run Counts 2015 Herring Counts
DaveC > 25-July-2016

Herring Management Town Brook alewives get a free ride to Billington Sea
KnightofNi > 29-April-2016

Herring Public Forum River Herring Migration Series at WHOI
KnightofNi > 30-April-2015

Eels Fines Increased for Herring Poaching
Jones River > 15-April-2015

river herring blog

rss

NMFS initiates status review of bluebacks and alewife

Several news stories and radio programs announced yesterday and today that the National Marine...

Two MA dam removal projects are awarded funding from NOAA

Two projects in Massachusetts have been awarded 2017 Community-based Restoration Program Coastal...

Save the Date - November 2, 2017 Annual Meeting

Save the Date!  

The River Herring Network 2017 annual meeting will take place on Thursday,...

Grant Opportunity for Culvert Replacement

The Division of Ecological Restoration just announced a grant opportunity to help towns replace...

Counting herring at your computer!

When you have a minute to spare, check out the Mystic River Watershed Association herring...

More Blog Posts