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Letting Rivers Run


Creating a Park, Healing a River

In Taunton, we helped convert a polluted parking lot into a beautiful park that protects the Mill River's water.

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With your support, The Nature Conservancy partners with business, government, local communities and others to remove outdated dams and create fish passage under roads and at dams that are still providing necessary services. Click on the image above to see a cool 360-degree photo of removal of the Hopewell Mills Dam.

Rivers are the lifeblood of New England. They powered our Industrial Revolution, have given shape to our communities and feed our priceless commercial fisheries.

 But for every hundred miles of stream that flow through New England, an average of seven dams and 106 roads interrupt the progress of the millions of migratory fish that once used our rivers as superhighways. 

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 Since these dams were built (some more than 200 years ago), salmon, eel, sturgeon and river herring have all suffered population declines so precipitous that they’ve been listed or proposed for federal endangered species protection.

 The Nature Conservancy works to reconnect rivers so that migrating species have access to upstream spawning and rearing habitat. The benefits of this approach go far beyond select species, though, as restored populations can bring a renewed natural abundance throughout our river and marine systems.

Across New England, we partner with business, government, local communities and others to remove outdated dams and create fish passage under roads and at dams that are still providing necessary services. Our goal: restore nature — and people’s connection to rivers — while supporting regional energy and economic needs.

A Mill River Transformation

In August 2012, excavators began removing the concrete that has held back the Mill River for decades. Within days, the impoundment dropped behind the Hopewell Mills Dam in Taunton, and the river flowed freely through the area for the first time in nearly 200 years.

Working with partners, The Nature Conservancy is removing or retrofitting several dams on this important Taunton River tributary, allowing sea-run fish like river herring and American eel to access an additional 30 miles of habitat.

Local people, too, will benefit. Like many of the 3,000-plus dams blocking Massachusetts rivers, Hopewell Mills dam was built for mills that no longer exist. Old dams like these pose dangerous flooding risks should they fail. On Beacon Hill, we’re working to make it easier for communities to remove dilapidated dams throughout the state. 

Among other dam-removal projects in New England:

Massachusetts

Whittenton Pond Dam, Taunton, MA — By spring 2013, we’ll start removing the Mill River dam that infamously failed during storms in 2005, prompting the evacuation of a nearby neighborhood and drawing national attention to the risks of aging dams.

Connecticut

StanChem Dam, Berlin, CT — After more than 10 years of planning and negotiations, a fish ladder is scheduled to be installed this fall that will open 50 miles of the Mattabesset River and its tributaries to migrating fish.

Rutan Dam, Stonington, CT — The Anguilla Brook is flowing free for the first time in nearly a century, following an August dam removal that benefits both native brook trout and the river’s namesake eels. Stone from the dam is being recycled to create a pool-and-weir fishway downstream that will open additional river miles.

Maine

Great Works Dam, Old town , ME — This summer saw removal of this first dam in the larger Penobscot River Restoration Project, which will help return tens of thousands of migrating alewives, eels and salmon to Maine’s largest watershed.

Pushaw Pond, Hudson, ME — The new fishway installed this fall at the entrance to Pushaw Pond, just 11 miles from the Penobscot River, will restore access for alewives. In time, the Pushaw run is expected to grow from zero to more than 1.3 million returning adult fish.

Veazie Dam, Veazie, ME — Just downriver from Great Works, this dam removal, slated to begin in summer 2013, will advance the Penobscot River Restoration Project.

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