Colrain Awarded Dam Removal Study Grant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Healey-Driscoll Administration Awards $350,000 to Support Dam Removal Studies in 7 Municipalities

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 12, 2023

CONTACT
Krista Haas

krista.haas@mass.gov

Healey-Driscoll Administration Awards $350,000 to Support Dam Removal Studies in 7 Municipalities

Athol, Attleboro, Colrain, Groton, North Andover, Monson, Phillipston, and Shutesbury area dams to be funded

BOSTON – The Healey-Driscoll Administration today announced the advancement of dam removal preliminary design studies for seven municipalities by the Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Division of Ecological Restoration (DER). These studies, funded and managed by DER, help owners of significant hazard dams assess risks and opportunities associated with potential dam removal projects and provide DER with critical information for future ecological restoration and climate adaptation planning. DER is supporting these preliminary design studies with $350,000 divided evenly amongst the seven dams, with $250,000 from the State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan (SHMCAP) and $100,000 in funding from DER Operational funds.

“We saw this summer the devastation that can be caused when aging infrastructure gets overwhelmed by extreme weather,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “A few months ago, we released ResilientMass, our strategy to build safer, more resilient communities in the face of climate change. Through ResilientMass, we’re funding initiatives like this one to support local communities take on these tough challenges and fund nature-based solutions to protect our residents.”

“DFG is excited to catalyze dam removal at these significant-hazard dams, bringing us a step closer to restoring rivers,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Tom O’Shea. “The work supports Governor Healey’s recent Biodiversity Executive Order by restoring rivers and the plants and animals that depend on them. This work will also benefit communities throughout Massachusetts through improved water quality, increased climate resilience, and reduced public safety risk.”

“There are many waterways throughout the Commonwealth that are hindered and deteriorating due to unnecessary dams,” said DER Director Beth Lambert. “Restoring these systems via dam removal can be a lengthy and complicated process, so supporting thorough preliminary design studies at these sites will help to bring them much closer to realizing their restoration goals. We are proud to be working with municipalities, NGOs, and citizens to pursue this shared vision of a restored Massachusetts.”

There are over 3,000 dams in Massachusetts, most of which no longer serve their original purpose and many of which are in disrepair. These dams can result in poor water quality, blocked passage for fish and wildlife, increased flood risk, and public safety hazards. Removing unwanted dams fixes these issues. Dam removal benefits communities through increased climate resilience and the elimination of dam operation and maintenance burdens for landowners. These preliminary design studies funded and led by DER will gather and synthesize information for each dam to inform future removal projects.

The State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan (SHMCAP), was adopted in September as the Commonwealth’s 2023 ResilientMass Plan. The plan aims to outline a path toward building long-term resilience throughout Massachusetts by leveraging historical risk data and integrating that data with projected future climate conditions. The ResilientMass Plan identifies strategies and specific, measurable actions state agencies will take to address risks to the human health and safety, communities, critical assets and infrastructure, natural resources, governance, and economy of the Commonwealth. The ResilientMass Plan includes several priority actions related to dam removal, ecological restoration, and flood risk reduction, and progress is tracked via the Agency Action Tracker found at resilient.mass.gov.

DER is supporting dam removal preliminary design studies at the following seven dams:

Bates Powers Reservoir Dam, Phillipston; dam owned by Town of Athol

The Bates Powers Reservoir Dam is located upstream of a Coldwater Fish Resource. Removal of the dam will restore important habitat and protect public safety by removing a Significant Hazard structure upstream of two major roadways which could be at risk in the event of dam failure.

Cochichewick River Dam, North Andover; dam owned by private owner

The Cochichewick River Dam is located on the Cochichewick River with no other dams downstream between it and the ocean, meaning that removal of the dam will greatly benefit fish passage. Removal will also protect public safety by removing a Significant Hazard structure within an Environmental Justice community and upstream of an MBTA commuter rail line and residential and commercial buildings, which could be vulnerable in the event of a dam failure.

Colrain Lower Reservoir Dam, Colrain; dam owned by Town of Colrain

The Colrain Lower Reservoir Dam is located on East Brook, a Coldwater Fish Resource, and upstream of critical habitat. Dam removal will improve the health of the ecosystem and protect public safety by removing a Significant Hazard structure that could result in flooding in the Town of Colrain in the event of a dam failure.

Dudleyville Pond Dam, Shutesbury; dam owned by private owner

The Dudleyville Pond Dam is located on an unnamed tributary to the Sawmill River, on a Coldwater Fish Resource, and upstream of critical habitat. Dam removal will improve the health of the ecosystem and protect public safety by removing a Significant Hazard structure.

Lunden Pond Dam, Monson; dam owned by The Trustees

The Lunden Pond Dam is located on an unnamed tributary to Temple Brook, upstream of a Coldwater Fish Resource and critical habitat. Removal of the dam will improve the health of the ecosystem and increase public safety by removing a Significant Hazard structure that’s located upstream of a road and natural gas crossing. Removal will also contribute to the Town of Monson’s top priority of reducing flood hazards in their Hazard Mitigation Plan and Municipal Vulnerability planning efforts.

Mechanics Pond Dam, Attleboro; dam owned by City of Attleboro

The Mechanics Pond Dam is located on the Tenmile River and is currently creating issues with water quality and algal blooms. Removal will provide important water quality benefits and will also protect public safety, as the dam is a Significant Hazard structure within an Environmental Justice community. A school, housing, roads, a rail system, and downtown Attleboro are all in proximity to the dam and could be at risk in the event of dam failure.

Squannacook River Dam, Groton; dam jointly owned by Town of Groton & private owner

The Squannacook River Dam is located on a Coldwater Fish Resource within an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Removal of this dam will improve the health of the ecosystem and protect public safety by removing a Significant Hazard structure. Removal of this dam was identified as a priority by the Merrimack Restoration Partnership, the Nashua River Watershed Association, and by the Town of Groton’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness planning effort.

Statements of Support

State Senator John J. Cronin

"Ensuring that our rivers and waterways can function as intended is a crucial step towards reaching the Commonwealth's conservation and climate goals. The Squannacook River is a source of joy for so many people in North Central Mass and a vital part of the region's ecosystem. Removing unnecessary dams and allowing nature to run its course is an endeavor that will pay off for years to come."

State Representative Susannah Whipps

“I am very grateful to the Healey Driscoll administration for recognizing the importance of helping our small communities protect infrastructure while also recognizing the importance of our waterways and local ecosystems.”

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The mission of the Division of Ecological Restoration is to restore and protect the Commonwealth’s rivers, wetlands, and watersheds for the benefit of people and the environment. The Department of Fish and Game is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.

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