By Kailyn Corrigan
On June 24th, 2014, PARE joined the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, Town of Lancaster, MA dignitaries, elected officials and our partners, to celebrate the completion of the Bartlett Pond Dam removal and the restoration of free flow to Wekepeke Brook, a tributary to the North Nashua River. The dam removal’s ribbon cutting ceremony was utilized as a backdrop to proclaim June as “Rivers Month.”
Bartlett Pond Dam before dam removal:
The Bartlett Dam removal project marked the first completion of a project awarded funding under the EEA Dam and Seawall Repair and Rehabilitation Fund. The fund enables the Commonwealth to fund project which address current infrastructure concerns such as the growing need to repair dams, coastal flood control structures and inland flood control structures that pose a risk to public health, public safety and key economic centers, while also supporting the enhancement, preservation, and protection of the natural resources and scenic, historic and aesthetic qualities of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Pare’s Project Manager, Allen Orsi, describes dam removal in general in a previous blog posted here.
The Bartlett Pond Dam, which was identified as a significant hazard potential dam in 2009, “was a threat to native ecology and natural processes,” as described by Briscoe Lang, Principal Environmental Scientist at Pare. Through detailed evaluations, Pare worked with the Town of Lancaster to consider both the rehabilitation and the removal of the dam. After completing a preliminary feasibility study in 2011, Pare worked with the Town, the Massachusetts Department of Ecological Restoration, and other project partners to advocate dam removal as the preferred approach for remediating observed deficiencies, such as native brook trout having no upstream passage, which affected the overall ecology of Wekepeke Brook. Design and permitting for the dam removal program commenced in fall 2012. Permitting was completed by summer 2013 and a contractor was selected by August 2013. Construction activities started in May 2014 with unobstructed flow restored to the brook within two weeks of commencing work.
Bartlett Pond Dam removal construction:
Briscoe Lang described the results of this project as “stunning.” Upstream passage was restored for 18 miles of high-quality cold water habitat. Pare also collaborated with Birchwood Design Group, landscape architects, to design the incorporation of park improvements and a landscaping program, which will provide added recreational benefits for the Town of Lancaster. The ultimate goal of this project is that the remnant channel will be stable and sustainable. When asked if there were any challenges the ecology could face after the dam removal, Briscoe mentioned that some plant life, such as purple loosestrife, does pose a risk, but Lancaster is aware of these factors and is adept in handling them.
Bartlett Pond after dam removal completion:
“Cities and towns across the state are facing significant costs to update their antiquated water infrastructure systems. This Lancaster project demonstrates that, when appropriate, removing a dam can be a very cost-effective way to restore a river and enhance public safety and water quality,” said Geoff Beckwith, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
The completion of this project marks the first of what PARE hopes to be many successful dam removals, thanks to the EEA Dam and Seawall Repair and Rehabilitation Fund.