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After nearly 350 years, Third Herring Brook runs again 2-10-17

After nearly 350 years, Third Herring Brook runs again

Wicked Local Hanover

By James Kukstis
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The Third Herring Brook is flowing freely for the first time in 342 years this winter, good news for local environmentalists and, more strikingly, the fish.

By spring, the herring population that gives the brook its name will be able to access 86 percent of their natural habitat, thanks to work by both the North & South River Watershed Association and the Massachusetts Bays Estuary Program.

"People are excited about it," said Sara Grady, Ecologist and South Shore Regional Coordinator for the MassBays Program. "People like the idea of reconnecting these parts of the stream and having fish move into parts of the stream where they haven't been able to for a long time."

Four man-made obstacles historically blocked the water flow, two of which have been successfully removed. In December, the Tack Factory Dam was removed, and the YMCA removed another dam on their property in 2014. A third dam, owned by the Hanover Mall, is the next that the NSRWA would like to remove.

"We hope to see the herring, that we know are there, traveling all the way up to the next obstruction at Peterson's Pond Dam," Grady said. "That's a lot more in-stream habitat for them to use, and we'll be monitoring that with our volunteer herring count in April and May."

The brook eventually leads to Jacobs Pond, where a fourth dam is located. This one is unlikely to removed, but may have a fish ladder installed to aid fish transit.

These dams, which largely serve no modern purpose, segment wildlife habitats by making it difficult, or impossible, for fish to make it through. By removing these obstructions, the fish are able to move further upstream to spawn.

In addition to freeing up the brook for the herring population, the project also solves a problem for native Eastern Brook Trout, which populate small cold-water tributaries off the brook.

"Those trout have been isolated in each of those little tributaries, not only because of the physical limitations of the dam, which prevent the trout from potentially going out to the North River, but also the fact that the dams created a pond that's warm," Grady said. "That created what is called a thermal barrier, so the water is too warm for the trout to travel to them."

350 years, Third Herring Brook runs again

HIDE CAPTION
Nick Wildman of the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration removes boards to lower the water (impoundment)behind the Tack Factory dam last October, prior to the dam removal. [Courtesy Photo]
Friday
Posted Feb 10, 2017 at 3:19 PM
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By James Kukstis
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Third Herring Brook is flowing freely for the first time in 342 years this winter, good news for local environmentalists and, more strikingly, the fish.

By spring, the herring population that gives the brook its name will be able to access 86 percent of their natural habitat, thanks to work by both the North & South River Watershed Association and the Massachusetts Bays Estuary Program.

"People are excited about it," said Sara Grady, Ecologist and South Shore Regional Coordinator for the MassBays Program. "People like the idea of reconnecting these parts of the stream and having fish move into parts of the stream where they haven't been able to for a long time."

Four man-made obstacles historically blocked the water flow, two of which have been successfully removed. In December, the Tack Factory Dam was removed, and the YMCA removed another dam on their property in 2014. A third dam, owned by the Hanover Mall, is the next that the NSRWA would like to remove.

"We hope to see the herring, that we know are there, traveling all the way up to the next obstruction at Peterson's Pond Dam," Grady said. "That's a lot more in-stream habitat for them to use, and we'll be monitoring that with our volunteer herring count in April and May."

The brook eventually leads to Jacobs Pond, where a fourth dam is located. This one is unlikely to removed, but may have a fish ladder installed to aid fish transit.

These dams, which largely serve no modern purpose, segment wildlife habitats by making it difficult, or impossible, for fish to make it through. By removing these obstructions, the fish are able to move further upstream to spawn.

In addition to freeing up the brook for the herring population, the project also solves a problem for native Eastern Brook Trout, which populate small cold-water tributaries off the brook.

"Those trout have been isolated in each of those little tributaries, not only because of the physical limitations of the dam, which prevent the trout from potentially going out to the North River, but also the fact that the dams created a pond that's warm," Grady said. "That created what is called a thermal barrier, so the water is too warm for the trout to travel to them."

Grady said many people mistakenly assume that a pond caused by a dam is storing additional water. The same amount of water flows through, she said, just at a different rate.

"The same amount of water would have been going over the dam as it is now, just flowing past the dam site," she said. "Now, it is carving out a natural channel and is accessible moving upstream and downstream by many different residents of the brook."

In addition to the herring and trout, the brook is home to American Eel, Sea Lampreys, a small smelt run, and many other species.

To measure the effectiveness of the restoration, the NSRWA will monitor the movement of the population.

"We're going to be tagging herring and trout and setting up two monitoring gates that will track when those fish go by, upstream and downstream of the dam," Grady said. "It's kind of like an EZ-Pass. The fish will pass underneath the gate and it will ping on the system."

In addition to this digital tracking, the NSRWA will also be looking for volunteers in the spring to help with visual counts and monitoring of the fish populations.

Follow James Kukstis on Twitter at @MarinerJamesK.

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