For Immediate Release - December 15, 2009

State Environmental Agency Teams with Federal and Private Partners for Dam Removal, Habitat Restoration in Rowley

Ox Pasture Brook restoration begins with first dam removal project in Essex County

ROWLEY - Aiming to improve habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species, the Department of Fish and Game's (DFG) Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) is spearheading the removal of the Lower Ox Pasture Brook Dam in concert with several public and private partners.

The Lower Ox Pasture Dam, situated on Ox Pasture Brook in the middle of the 2,000-acre William Forward Wildlife Management Area (WMA), is a six-foot high, 200-foot long earth and concrete dam. Positioned at the head-of-tide, the dam blocks tidal flushing as well as migratory fish passage. Over the course of the next two weeks DER will remove the dam in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Mass Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, and the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District.

"DER is working on a number of dam removal projects throughout the Commonwealth, as dam removal and habitat restoration benefit native fish and wildlife and can create more resilient ecosystems in the face of climate change," said Mary Griffin, Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. "The Ox Pasture Brook project involves multiple partners including private conservation organizations, federal partners such as NOAA and the USFWS, and DFG's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), which manages the wildlife management area for the benefit of many fish and wildlife species that utilize the property."

The William Forward WMA contains approximately 700 acres of upland surrounded by more than 1,300 acres of salt marsh. The uplands are predominantly mixed oak and white pine woodlands with mature stands of red pine and spruce. The uplands support ruffed grouse, deer, fox, cottontail rabbit, coyote, raccoon, woodcock and gray squirrel. Depending on the season, weather and tide, ducks and geese can be found in the tidal river and wetlands.

Funding for the dam removal includes a grant from Trout Unlimited and American Rivers through a partnership with NOAA, and a donation of technical services from the consulting firm ERM. The USFWS' Coastal Program and Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program also contributed funds for engineering and construction oversight, which has been provided by the consulting and engineering firm, Stantec. In addition, the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District donated a portion of construction services, making the total construction cost $30,000.

"Removal of this dam will be a culmination of four years of planning, design and permitting - including a lot of sweat equity, creative problem solving and partnership support," said DER Acting Director Tim Purinton. "This project will improve access to fish habitat and restore tidal fresh marsh, a rare wetland type."

"This project will improve habitat for many fish and wildlife species, including white perch, rainbow smelt, American eel, migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds," said MassWildlife Director Wayne MacCallum.

"The restoration of Ox Pasture Brook should facilitate other dam removal projects that NOAA, the Division of Ecological Restoration, the Fish and Wildlife Service and local partners are working on around the North Shore," said Matt Collins, hydrologist at NOAA's Restoration Center in Gloucester.

"This is an exciting opportunity for Trout Unlimited to assist with dam removals in Massachusetts," said Trout Unlimited Director of Resources Joseph McGurrin. "It's our understanding that there is a community-based effort to restore 'salter' trout to the Parker River watershed and barrier removal is an important part of restoring their habitat."

"Dam removal is not just happening in Massachusetts, it's a national trend. In 2009, 58 dams in 16 states have been removed. That not only benefits fisheries but also local communities and their economies," said Brian Graber, director of American Rivers River Restoration Program's Northeast Region.

Active dam removal investigations are taking place by DER and partners on the Parker, Ipswich and Shawsheen Rivers. To date there have been 11 dams removed in Massachusetts to improve river conditions and another 30 slated for removal.

The Division of Ecological Restoration's (DER) mission is to restore and protect the health and integrity of the Commonwealth's rivers, wetlands and watersheds for the benefit of people, fish and wildlife.

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.