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Mill River Restoration

The Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) is leading a federal, state, and local partnership to improve water quality and restore aquatic habitat on the Mill River in Taunton.

Mill River, Taunton, MA

Excavator removing dam
Whittenton Dam at start of removal in July 2013.

The Mill River is a tributary to the dam-free Wild and Scenic Taunton River which in turn flows into Narragansett Bay. National attention focused on the Mill River in 2005 when Whittenton Dam came close to failing during an extreme flood. The crisis catalyzed the City, agencies and NGOs to examine the public safety benefits of removing three aging dams on the Mill River.

With guidance from DER and others, the Mill River Restoration partners and dam owners began to explore removing the three obsolete dams and building a fish ladder at a fourth. The Hopewell Mills Dam was removed in 2012; the Whittenton Dam was removed in 2013 and the West Britannia Dam was removed in 2018. In 2012 a fish ladder was also constructed at Morey’s Bridge Dam.

Now complete, the project opens over 50 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.

In early April of 2018, the first river herring to swim the Mill River in over 200 years were captured on camera by the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF). DMF is leading a five-year project to track the reestablishment of river herring and other diadromous fish in the Mill River watershed.

Vital Statistics

Town: Taunton
Major Watershed: Taunton
Subwatershed: Mill River
Partners: DER, Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, Save the Bay, NOAA Restoration Center, US Fish and Wildlife Service,  USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, MA Division of Marine Fisheries, MA Department of Mental Health MA Department of Transportation, Mass Audubon, Taunton River Watershed Alliance, Corporate Wetlands Restoration Program, dam owners

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