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Fore River restoration is a work in progress in Braintree, Weymouth 5-14-15

Fore River restoration is a work in progress in Braintree, Weymouth

Every spring, hundreds of thousands of fish once made the annual four mile trek from Hingham Bay to Great Pond to spawn.

Wicked Local Weymouth

By Robert Michelson
Correspondent

Posted May. 14, 2015 at 11:45 AM

BRAINTREE
The Weymouth Fore River is a complex system of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and reservoirs that incorporate five surrounding cities and towns including: Braintree, Weymouth, Randolph, Holbrook and Quincy. Historically, alewife, known more commonly as river herring, returned in large numbers to spawn in Great Pond, which borders Braintree and Randolph.
Every spring, hundreds of thousands of fish once made the annual four mile trek from Hingham Bay to Great Pond to spawn.
Then, in the nineteenth century, dams brought on by a changing economy brought an end to the great herring migration to Great Pond.
Flash forward to 2009, when the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries completed a feasibility study to determine if the watershed could ever be restored to a point where herring could thrive at their historic levels.
It was found that Rainbow smelt were spawning every spring in the lower Monatiquot River, as far upstream as McCusker Drive in Braintree, and a population of 400,000 smelt was estimated to live in the river.
Those estimations, if accurate, would make the Weymouth Fore the largest smelt run in Massachusetts.
River herring can migrate as far as the Natural Falls, or Rock Dam on the Monatiquot River, where the former Armstrong tile building still stands.
Beyond that barrier, the herring can not travel to reach Great Pond. The study showed this obstacle could be passed if a by-pass around the rock dam is adjusted to allow water, and fish, to safely swim around the dam.
The next smaller barrier, the Ames Pond Dam, could easily be passed by lowering the existing footing to allow a more natural flow of water.
The second major obstacle is the Hollingsworth Pond Dam under the obsolete factory, which has a 12 and-a-half foot drop and would need to be removed. The other option would be to construct a fish ladder, which would allow herring to swim past the dam.
The final barrier is the Great Pond Dam, which is due to be repaired in 2015-2016. A fish ladder is also planned for the dam's location to allow migrating herring into the 180 acre habitat of Great Pond.
The flow of water necessary to attract the herring along their journey would need to be adjusted to allow sufficient water flow to attract and guide the herring along their way, yet still provide sufficient drinking water to the tri-town water district of Braintree, Holbrook and Randolph. The herring will need to traverse the Fore, Monatiquot and Farm rivers in order to reach Great Pond.
"I would suggest that the river herring restoration project is an important project regionally that needs local support. It has not been competing well against other more organized and prepared projects in the region", says Brad Chase, a biologist with the state Division of Marine Fisheries. "I think the benefits match up against any other project. It just needs a ground swell of local support to raise the awareness and profile", he saysOnce needed passage is provided, experts like Chase say the Weymouth Fore River Watershed will once again provide home to a healthy population of River Herring, along with improving the local habitat for American eel, rainbow smelt, white perch and tomcod.

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