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Holmes Dam/Newfield Street fish ladder next to go 4-25-15

Holmes Dam/Newfield Street fish ladder next to go

After more than 15 years, more than $10 million dollars, and an almost endless parade of backhoes, excavators and environmentalists, the Town Brook restoration project is one big project short of completion.

Wicked Local Plymouth
By Frank Mand
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Posted Apr. 25, 2015 at 6:00 AM

PLYMOUTH – They really are near the end. After more than 15 years, more than $10 million dollars, and an almost endless parade of backhoes, excavators and environmentalists, the Town Brook restoration project is one big project short of completion.
The emphasis is on big.
As you turn off Summer and on to Newfield Street you pass over the Holmes Dam, and to your right, partially hidden under tree limbs and undergrowth, there is a fish ladder that river herring need to navigate to make it to open water beyond.
If they make it up that ladder there are no obstructions from there to Billington Sea, where the herring's instincts tell them they should spawn.
But getting past that dam and all the way up that ladder is harder than you might think.
"Last year when I was there I estimated that there were 50,000 herring waiting to get their turn on the ladder," NOAA Eric Hutchins said this week. "The fish ladder works, but its not efficient enough."
So the plan is to take the dam and the ladder down, and to excavate the area to the west of Newfield Street with the goal of "naturalizing" the stream bed (now hidden under the ground).
"It's a big project," Hutchins said, "probably the most complex of all those undertaken to date. There are abutters, utility lines, a large dam, an active bridge and a skate park."
As the plan now stands, the skate park will not be affected, and after this project is completed the herring will be home free.
It's still early though. This last major Town Brook project is now in the design and permitting phase for the dam removal. It will be years before it is completed. It will be expensive. But like the other major projects on Town Brook, it will likely have the financial and technical support of numerous state, federal and private entities.
Among the major environmental organizations that contributed funds and expertise to the Town Brook project in the past: NOAA, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Conservation Law Foundation, American Rivers, the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, The Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, the Plymouth Department of Marine & Environmental Management, Restore America's Estuaries, The Gulf of Maine Council, Mass. Development, Marine Fisheries of Massachusetts, the Community Preservation Act and Plimoth Plantation
Why are state, federal, public and private groups continually ready to step in?
Part of the reason is that this project has a remarkable, historic story to tell involving the Pilgrims, the Wampanoag people, and the industrial foundations of America. But another reason, Hutchins says, is because of the faith that these outside organizations have in Plymouth itself.
"My organization provides funding, and I provide technical assistance for projects from the Canadian Maritimes, to Southern New England," Hutchins says. "So I can say that when it comes to local funding, the commitment and expertise of staff, and the actual implementation of projects almost no other community even compares to Plymouth, Dave Gould and his department."

That's why so many of those organizations will be on hand today (Saturday, April 25) for the ceremony marking the completion of the Plymco Dam removal project, and why there is a Herring Festival this weekend (Saturday and Sunday) when, along with tours, music, and demonstrations, visitors can also help local environmentalists count the herring as they swim upstream.
You might say the entire Town Brook project has been an upstream battle. But finally, after a long swim, the end is in sight.
Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM.

From Forum

Herring Public Forum Exemption to Wetland Act for herring protection
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Herring Public Forum River Herring Migration Series at WHOI
KnightofNi > 30-April-2015

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