Momentum builds for restoration of Braintree's hidden river 4-15-14

Momentum builds for restoration of Braintree's hidden river

Monatiquot, Braintree's hidden river
Neal Simpson
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Apr. 12, 2014 @ 4:00 am
Updated Apr 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM

BRAINTREE – Long before its flow was choked by crumbling dams, rubber truck tires and discarded shopping carts, the Monatiquot River teemed each spring with millions of alewives making the journey home from Quincy Bay to Great Pond. That annual migration nearly ended with the Industrial Revolution, in which mills and dams were built to power the factories that defined a period in Braintree's early history. But today, with most industry long gone from the banks of the Monatiquot, environmental advocates say it's time for Braintree's nearly forgotten river to get the same respect that other South Shore watersheds have been shown.
"Every one has gotten a lot of attention, and now it feels like it's time for this project," said Carl Pawlowski, a Fore River Watershed Association member who has been working to restore herring runs on the Monatiquot since the 1990s. "It's been 18 years."
A loose coalition of environmental groups, state agencies, municipal boards and businesses is working to demolish dams, build fish ladders, restore river banks with native plants and create new public areas where people can enjoy the little-known river. A group of volunteers will be on the Monatiquot this weekend to remove trash from the river and clear an overgrown walking trail along its banks as part of an effort coordinated by Sustainable Braintree and the Fore River Watershed Association.
Pawlowski says he's seen growing momentum behind the efforts in recent years even though the river remains out of view for most people, largely tucked behind apartment buildings, grocery store parking lots and long-empty factories. Except for its estuary in East Braintree and a few places were it flows under streets, there are precious few places along its meandering 5-mile length where the public can enjoy the river.
"It's really hard to get involved," said Robert Kearns, a Braintree High junior who has pushed to get more people, especially high school students, engaged in restoring the Monatiquot. "There are no really good places for the public to access the river."
That could change soon. Braintree's conservation commission allocated $7,800 earlier this year to design a kayak launch from Union Street and is now looking at other places in town where it could create public spaces for people to enjoy the Monatiquot. Kelly Phelan, the town's conservation planner, said she hopes crews can begin work on the kayak launch this summer.
"We're hearing a lot from people that they want access, so we're try to be responsive to that," she said.

At the same time, organizers are waiting to hear back about a federal grant that could allow them to transform the river by eliminating two aging dams and study ways to get herring over a natural rock falls, which now marks the end of the run for the few thousand fish believed to still spawn in the Monatiquot each spring.
Pawlowski said the grant, expected to be as much as $350,000, would pay for engineering and permitting needed to remove the Ames Pond and Hollingsworth dams, both of which are adjacent to the long-vacant Armstrong Flooring plant off Hancock Street. The property's owner, F.X. Messina, has agreed to help with the demolition once the planning is completed, Pawlowski said.
But that would still leave the Rock Falls, a natural outcropping downstream of the dams that currently stops herring at a railroad bridge behind the Shaw's supermarket on Pearl Street. Pawlowski said he believes engineers could raise the level of the river downstream of the Rock Falls to allow the herring to pass or, as a stopgap measure, organize an annual "bucket brigade" to manually carry the fish upstream.
After that, engineers would need to develop plans for a fish ladder that would allow herring that make it from the Monatiquot to the Farm River to enter Great Pond, Powlowski said. He said fishery experts believe as many as 2 million herring could eventually swim up the Monatiquot to spawn every year once the ladder has been built.
Even if those projects are still a few years off, Kearns, the Braintree High junior, said it's vital that volunteers like those working on the river this weekend continue their work cleaning up the Monatiquot. The river itself is not the only thing at stake, he said.
"Everything that gets in the river is going to end up in the ocean eventually, and it's really sad to see beaches that are full of trash," he said. "If we don't address the issues in the Monatiquot, it's going to affect everything else."
Neal Simpson may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow him on Twitter @NSimpson_Ledger.

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