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News River Herring Return to the Mill River in Taunton

The first river herring to swim the Mill River in over 200 years.
  • Division of Ecological Restoration
Two images one an excavator removing a dam, the other a river herring as captured by an underwater camera.

In February, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), DER, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and NOAA removed West Britannia Dam from the Mill River in downtown Taunton. In early April, the first river herring to swim the Mill River in over 200 years were captured on camera by the MA Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) (see photo). The West Britannia Dam Removal is the final element in the Mill River Restoration Project – a project to remove three dams and construct a fish ladder at a fourth. The Mill River is a tributary to the undammed Taunton River, a federally-designated Wild and Scenic river. 

Now complete, the project opens over 30 miles of mainstem and tributary habitat to river herring, American eel, sea lamprey, and many other species. Besides the environmental benefits, the project addresses public safety, climate adaptation, and resilience to extreme weather by removing three aging, obsolete dams. Project partners include the City of Taunton, Taunton River Watershed Alliance, Taunton River Wild and Scenic Stewardship Committee, Southeastern Planning and Economic Development District, TNC, American Rivers, DMF, Massachusetts Environmental Trust, MA DEP’s Natural Resource Damages Trust, NOAA, USFWS, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, MA Department of Transportation, the MA Department of Mental Health / Taunton State Hospital (dam owner), Acuity Management, Inc. (dam owner), and Jefferson Development (dam owner).

DMF is leading a five-year project to track the reestablishment of river herring and other diadromous fish in the Mill River watershed. For more details, check out this excellent blog post by the USFWS.

Division of Ecological Restoration 

DER restores and protects rivers, wetlands, and watersheds in Massachusetts for the benefit of people and the environment.