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Fore River Watershed herring run project has legs 7-21-16

Fore River Watershed herring run project has legs

Wicked Local Holbrook
By Bob Michelson

Posted Jul. 21, 2016 at 8:20 AM
Updated Jul 21, 2016 at 4:25 PM

Restoring river herring to the Fore River Watershed, which includes parts of Canton, Holbrook, Randolph and Stoughton, has made some gains since last reported in May 2015.
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA DMF) funded additional scoping designs for passage improvements at the Great Pond Reservoir, Armstrong Dam and the Natural Falls, the three key features to restoring river herring to the reservoir.
"We received a $39K grant from the US. Fish and Wildlife Service to design the Armstrong Dam removal and a $19K match from MA DMF to add to the USFWS grant," said Brad Chase, diadromous fish biologist and management project, Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries. "I am leading this project now through a contract with Gomez and Sullivan.
"The Tri-Town Water Board received a loan from the MA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation to rehabilitate the Great Pond Reservoir Dam. This project includes the construction of a fish ladder."
If the restoration of the Fore/Monatiquot rivers are successful, it will return a half-million river herring to Great Pond which is shared by both Randolph and Braintree. The Fore River Watershed also includes Holbrook, but that portion of the river system passes by the Baird & McGuire Superfund site, so all water has long been diverted to the Fore River and never considered as part of the restoration effort and herring run restoration. Holbrook, however, has a vested interest in the project because it also obtains its drinking water from Great Pond.
The Fore River Watershed is based in Braintree, Weymouth and Quincy, and also has parts of Milton and Avon. The Fore River Watershed is a part of the larger Boston Basin watershed.
The state completed the river herring habitat assessment report for the Great Pond Reservoir (see http://tinyurl.com/j2bnsyv). The assessment documents suitable water quality in the reservoir and the best ranking for water quality in the assessment project to date.
Why is it important to restore river herring to the watershed?
"The expected increase in the river herring run would be a significant benefit to a wide range of fish and wildlife that forage on adult and juvenile river herring," said Kelly Phelan, the Braintree conservation planner. "It would help support commercial and recreation fisheries (striped bass, cod and haddock) in New England."
"The additional benefits should include gains in the local commercial lobster fishery," said Carl Pawlowski of the Fore River Watershed Association. "We are looking at (approximately 2 million) fish per year. That's a huge number. The economic benefit in the lobster fishery alone pays for this project several times over in the next 20 years. Add in the multiplier and forget about it. I have witnessed firsthand an increase in commercial lobstering in the Fore River from zero to four boats inside the Fore River Bridge over that past 10 years. Recreational striped bass fishing would explode."

Project partners Braintree, DMF, Fore River Watershed Association and Messina Enterprises) continue to seek grant funding to pay for this. Messina Enterprises has committed to funding the dam removal once design, engineering and permitting are done.
The following are costs, according to Phelan:
Design, permitting and engineering: $232,787.
Dam removal and restoration: $559,073.
Post-removal monitoring, survey and as-built: $37,753.
Total funding required: $829,613.
"There is a significant socioeconomic benefit associated with the project," Phelan said. "The Armstrong Dam site is a former mill complex with an outdated and high hazard dam. Removal of the dam will facilitate the redevelopment of the complex into residential or mixed-use retail and residential with enhanced open space and reduced impervious surface. There will be a direct short-term economic benefit from construction (e.g. equipment operators, engineers), equipment rental and sales of construction supplies and landscape/nursery supplies. There is also the long-term economic benefit derived as the redeveloped property will generate income for the property owner and significantly increased property tax revenue for Braintree."
Economic studies have shown that dam repair projects can be equal to or more than capital projects such as road and bridge construction.
"Natural resource restoration adds to the quality of life in a community," Chase said. "The culture of coastal towns developed with a dependency and appreciation for aquatic resources. Much of the economic benefit has diminished. But the average person appreciates knowing that these living resources are still out there."
There is improved opportunity to catch commercial, recreational and sustenance harvest of the sea-run fish and the predator fish that feed on them. And many species of birds and wildlife gather and prosper with the forage provided by the fish runs.
"This is especially true for river herring," Chase said.
"This project has been in the works for a very long time," Pawlowski said. "We have been passed over for lesser projects in terms of grant opportunities way too often because we are not politically important which is strange because there are 182,000 residents in Quincy, Braintree and Weymouth alone; that's a lot of tax dollars and a lot of votes. People should be really upset that millions of dollars have been spent on marginal projects all around the state, while this project is stalled. The time for action is now."

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