State Environmental Officials Announce Completion of Dam Removal Projects in Athol and Phillipston
Ecological restoration efforts to benefit communities and habitat along Thousand Acre Brook
BOSTON – Thursday, January 24, 2013 – Officials from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) today announced the completion of two dam removal projects in the headwaters of Thousand Acre Brook near the Athol-Phillipston town line.
“Dam removal projects like these are a boon to public safety, reducing flood risk and enhancing water quality,” said EEA Secretary Rick Sullivan. “In addition, these efforts will restore five miles of river habitat to native fish and wildlife and relieve the town of Athol of ongoing maintenance costs.”
The Thousand Acre Brook is a tributary to the Millers River, which flows through both Athol and Phillipston. Restoration efforts included the removal of approximately 300 feet of the primary dam spillway, complete removal of a smaller upstream dam, fill and culvert removal, and native plantings to reconnect wetland areas.
The project site is just upstream from large tracts of conservation land and areas designated by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program as BiomapCore Habitat and Endangered Species Habitat. Core Habitat identifies key areas to ensure the long-term existence of wildlife species of conservation concern, exemplary natural communities, and intact ecosystems across the Commonwealth.
The area is also home to the Thousand Acre Swamp and part of the North Quabbin Bioreserve.
“This is a big boost to the Town of Athol and also helps native wildlife species like white-tailed deer, muskrat, and many types of waterfowl,” said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin. “These and other wildlife species will benefit from this barrier removal which reconnects significant wetland tracts.”
The primary dam, which was 1,100 feet long and 15 feet high, was built at the turn of the 20th century to form a drinking water supply reservoir. In 2007, the Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety ordered the town to repair or breach the dam in response to poor conditions.
In 2010, DFG’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) selected the effort as a Priority Project and since that time has provided technical assistance, $78,000 in funding, and direct project management services to the town to help see the effort through completion. The Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) provided $30,000 in funding support for the project.
“Failing dams are too common here and the completion of these projects is in line with the Commonwealth’s commitment to acting on a solution for dams that pose a risk to public safety,” said Sen. Stephen M. Brewer. “Additionally, I am happy that this year, Massachusetts will establish a loan program that will help municipalities facing costs from dam removal or repair. Projects like this will help to improve failing infrastructure and allow for environmental improvements that will serve generations of residents.”
“The Millers River has been a popular fishing and water recreation area, opening up the tributaries will add to the aesthetic quality as well as providing opportunities for fish restoration,” said Rep. Anne Gobi, House Chair of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee.
“These dam removal projects benefit our area both environmentally and fiscally,” said Rep. Denise Andrews. “We are a strategic area in the Commonwealth known for pristine water, diverse wildlife, fish, plant habitat, as well as for our strong environmental stewardship. We want to ensure the availability and enjoyment of our precious natural resources for generations to come.”
“The town no longer needed this backup water supply and the dam was an on-going source of liability and cost,” said Doug Walsh, Athol’s Superintendent of Public Works. “We are grateful for the help from the Division of Ecological Restoration and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust program to make this happen.”
“We are thrilled about the completion of the first proactive dam removal in the Millers River watershed. This is a win-win situation for the Town and for the environment,” said Ivan Ussach, Coordinator of the Millers River Watershed Council.
Kaszowski Brothers Contracting of Charlton completed the project in less than two weeks for approximately $83,000. Stantec Consulting Services provided design, permitting, and engineering oversight services.
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) 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.