More open North, South rivers would help fish 8/21/14

More open North, South rivers would help fish 

By Kristi Funderburk
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Posted Aug. 21, 2014 @ 12:00 pm
Wicked Local Marshfield

Two projects that could improve fish passage and population in Marshfield and Scituate rivers have a fighting chance for state funding.
The projects — including a plan to renovate a fish ladder and raise the reservoir in Scituate and study the possible removal of some dams in Marshfield and Duxbury — are part of a recently signed $2.2 billion environmental bond bill.
Being part of the bill doesn't mean funding is guaranteed, but it puts the towns closer to financing their projects without burdening the local budget.
"It's a step in the right direction and lets people know this is a priority," said Samantha Woods, executive director of North and South Rivers Watershed Association.
Woods worked with state Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield, to get the projects on the bond.
The towns, and state officials supporting the projects, are looking for $1.33 million for the fish ladder renovation in First Herring Brook and raise the reservoir and $650,000 to examine the possible removal of the dams at Temple street and Chandler Pond dams and cranberry bog sluiceways.
Scituate and Marshfield are also jointly requesting $5.2 million to dredge the North and South Rivers and use the dredged materials on Fourth Cliff Air Force Recreation Area to provide critical habitat for endangered bird species, improved coastal resiliency and beach nourishment.
The bill includes more than 300 projects for towns across the Commonwealth, each seeking a piece of the highly competitive bond.
"It was a big deal to get those projects in the bond and now it's my job to defend them," Cantwell said, who credited Woods for bringing the projects to his attention.
Fish in the rivers would gain about 5.5 miles of swimming area if some dams were removed, Woods said. The watershed for the North and South Rivers has 65 dams, many of which were built in colonial times and then repurposed during the Industrial Revolution, she said.
Some private landowners want to have the dams removed, as they can be costly to maintain, but a feasibility study could make sure there aren't any unseen ramifications, Woods said.
If they are none, the waterways and those living in them could be better off without them, she said.
"What they're doing is fragmenting habitat," Woods said. "From a fish's perspective, it can't get past it."
More open waterways would allow the fish to swim freely, she said.
"The re-opening of these streams and creating living quarters will hopefully bring more resiliency to these streams and more resiliency to populations of organisms that rely on those streams," Woods said.
While funding through the bond will be limited, Woods hopes there is some chance because the state has already designated the South River a priority for habitat restoration.
The association has done as much as it can to keep the rivers healthy to help the herring, but now needs the state government to keep progress moving forward.
"This is the final solution," Woods said. "We've done a lot of work prior. This would be the last step in making the stream wholly accessible."
Follow editor Kristi Funderburk on Twitter @kfunder

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