'Good numbers' as herring run in Braintree's Monatiquot River peaks 5-10-14

'Good numbers' as herring run in Braintree's Monatiquot River peaks

A month after environmental groups held an annual clean-up near the hidden river, they said the first fish counts are promising. Groups hope to clear a path for a million or more fish for upstream spawning.

Posted May. 10, 2014 @ 6:00 am
Patriot Ledger

BRAINTREE –= As the peak of the herring spawning season on the Monatiquot River approaches, local environmental activists say their dreams of a restored river filled with fish don't seem so distant anymore.
A little more than a month after a group of Braintree residents and students and others cleared debris and discarded material near a stretch of the river, they're reporting an increasingly strong run of the little fish upstream from the Fore River toward their age-old spawning areas.
"We're seeing good numbers," Carl Pawlowski of the Fore River Watershed Association said Friday.
Braintree High School junior Robert Kearns, one of the project's leading advocates said "it's a very promising sign." He expects the count to multiply starting next week, as temperatures rise.
On Wednesday Kearns found a spot off McCusker Drive to watch groups of the small, silvery fish jump a low waterfall there.

Pawlowski, a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority environmental engineer, said as many as 10,000 herring will make that spawning run, which began last week and will last into early June.
That might not seem like a lot – especially compared to the 1 million herring the watershed association hopes to see in the river someday – but Pawlowski said it's already the most fish the now-hidden waterway has seen in generations.
The five-mile Monatiquot meanders from the meeting point of the Farm River and Cochato River close to Sunset Lake, through Braintree to the Fore River basin in Weymouth.
The lake and Great Pond farther south were the herrings' historical spawning waters, but that path was blocked by 18th and 19th century industrial dams, and the town's steady development along both sides of the Monatiquot.

These days, anyone who wants to see the river has to look behind apartment buildings, grocery store parking lots and vacant factories such as the old Armstrong Flooring plant off Hancock Street. The only truly open views are the river's estuary in East Braintree, and a short railroad bridge that crosses the river off Pearl Street.
The watershed association and its allies are hoping to win a federal grant that would enable them to clear the herring run's biggest obstacles – the Ames Pond and Hollingsworth dams – and raise the water level downstream from a natural rock falls.

Real estate developer F.X. Messina, the Armstrong property's owner, has said he'll take care of the dams' demolition if the association gets the federal grant. The town conservation commission is also scouting out sites where river views could be opened.
Pawlowski and Kearns said the project could also have an economic impact – more herring would provide more food for lobster, cod and other sea fish that are commercially caught. But for now, they're encouraged by the growing attention the river is getting around town.
"It's in the best shape it's been for a long time," Pawlowski said. "If people want to see the river, we'll take them there."
Follow Lane Lambert on Twitter @LLambert_Ledger.

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