For Immediate Release - October 17, 2012

STATE AND FEDERAL ENVIRONMENT OFFICIALS CELEBRATE AMETHYST BROOK RESTORATION

Project kicks off with removal of Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam

PELHAM – Wednesday, October 17, 2012 – Officials from the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) joined federal and local partners and river advocates today to celebrate the restoration of Amethyst Brook and the removal of the historic Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam.

“Removal of the dam will restore the aquatic habitat so that it equals the exemplary conditions that exist in Amethyst Brook upstream of the dam,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan. “This project will open up approximately nine miles of upstream habitat and re-connect 253 miles of downstream habitat extending to the Connecticut River.”

The dam removal is estimated to take five weeks and cost $193,000. A portion of the dam will remain intact as a way of honoring the historical nature of the site. Work by SumCo Eco-contracting of Salem began at the site today.

“Dams like this can significantly alter the food web and compromise habitat quality by interrupting the natural movement of sediment, organic matter, fish, and wildlife,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. “This project will also eliminate repair costs estimated at $300,000 for HRD Press, a local publishing company.”

Amethyst Brook is a high-quality tributary to the Fort River, home to some of the most diverse aquatic life in the Commonwealth. The dam blocks upstream passage of migratory fish and negatively affects the ecological condition of the stream. Species, such as sea lamprey, American eel, brook and brown trout, and slimy sculpin, are expected to benefit from the project.

"Restoring Amethyst Brook plays an important role in protecting the Fort River watershed, a valuable part of the Service's Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge and home to brook trout, sea lamprey, Atlantic salmon and the endangered dwarf wedgemussel," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber. "We are proud to support the project through Service programs and as a trustee for the Holyoke Coal Tar settlement for damages to natural resources."

The Bartlett Rod Shop Co. Dam was originally built in 1820 to provide power for the adjacent gristmill, and then powered a fishing rod manufacturing facility until 1931. Today, the dam no longer serves any commercial purpose, is in disrepair, and is listed as a significant hazard structure by the state Office of Dam Safety.

“Our small business could not possibly fund the repair of a dam which is no longer serving any useful purpose,” said Robert Carkhuff, publisher at HRD Press and owner of the dam. “By removing the dam we have our fiscal and legal liability eliminated and get to do the right thing environmentally; this is a real ‘win-win’. HRD Press is grateful for all the help from Division of Ecological Restoration staff and others to make this project a reality.”

The dam removal project is being funded with $158,091 from the Holyoke Coal Tar Natural Resource Damages (NRD) Trustee Council, which now oversees the expenditure of $395,000 from a 2004 consent decree with the Holyoke Water Power Company and the City of Holyoke Gas & Electric Department. The remainder of the funds have been allocated to the Manhan River fishway project, and to a freshwater mussel survey in reaches of the Connecticut River. Funds not expended for those projects will be used to remove the Orient Springs dam in Pelham and to remove invasive water chestnut from Log Cove in the Connecticut River.

“For many years, coal tar wastes damaged the endangered short-nose sturgeon, rare freshwater mussels and other delicate natural resources in the Connecticut River,” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “The NRD funds will help to remove barriers that prevent this vital ecosystem from functioning properly, and these projects will help to restore a natural habitat for migratory fish and freshwater mussels in the Connecticut River, Amethyst Brook and other tributaries.”

“This is one of the best ecological restoration projects we’ve seen, and will benefit Amethyst Brook and the Fort River. It eliminates a safety hazard and helps a valuable local business,” said Dana MacDonald, Chair of the Pelham Conservation Commission. “We deeply appreciate the private landowner, historical commission, and other partners for working together for years to make this happen.”

"This restoration project is a great example of a cooperative partnership between state and federal agencies, municipalities, non-profits, and the dam's private owner,” said Representative Stephen Kulik. “It is a wise investment in the environment which will enhance habitat protection and the quality of life in our region for future generations to enjoy."

“We are proud to be a partner in this ecologically important project, funded through both our Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program and Community-Based Restoration Program,” said John Catena, NOAA Fisheries Service Northeast Regional Supervisor. “Removal of the dam restores access by migratory fishes to upstream spawning and rearing habitat, improves downstream habitat, and eliminates a liability to the dam owner and safety hazard to the Pelham community.  The Amethyst Brook restoration project is one of more than 200 fish passage projects in which NOAA has contributed funds and technical assistance in the Northeast since 1996.”

“American Rivers is proud to be part of this important river restoration project, and we applaud the many partners who are making it possible. Healthy rivers are the lifeblood of our communities, and this project will improve the health of Amethyst Brook for generations to come,” said Brian Graber, Northeast Region River Restoration Director.

“We are pleased that funds from our Clean Water Act enforcement case can be part of this dam removal project which will help improve water quality,” said Becky Smith of Clean Water Action. “The settlement also requires that Trew Stone Inc. reduce pollution in stormwater discharges from its site. All told this is a real benefit to local waters.”

DFG’S Division of Ecological Restoration coordinated the project in concert with the Town of Pelham and Town of Amherst. Funding for the dam removal came from a variety of sources including the Holyoke Coal Tar NRD Trustee Council, Mass Environmental Trust, FishAmerica Foundation/NOAA Partnership, Clean Water Action, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Rivers/NOAA Partnership. The Holyoke Coal Tar NRD Trustee Council consists of MassDEP, NOAA, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other partners include the U.S. Forest Service and MassWildlife. The project engineer is Stantec Consulting Services.

Massachusetts Environmental Trust grants are made possible by more than 40,000 Massachusetts drivers who have purchased one of the “Preserve the Trust” environmental license plates from the RMV.

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 Division was created in 2009 with the merger of the Riverways and Wetland Restoration Programs and is coordinating 80 ecological restoration projects across the Commonwealth.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the enjoyment and conservation of the Commonwealth’s natural resources.  DFG carries out this mission through land preservation and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and game species, and enforcement of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. 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 lakes and ponds.

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