A group of lawmakers and environmental officials gathered today at a 19th century dam on the Amethyst Brook in Pelham, Massachusetts to celebrate its deconstruction. Originally built in 1820 to supply power to a mill, the dam has long since stopped serving its intended purpose. In 2007, it was deemed a safety hazard by the state office of dam safety.
Tim Purinton is the director of the state’s Division of Ecological Restoration. He says removing unused dams like the one on Amethyst Brook, restores habitat for migratory fish populations such as American eel, brook trout, and slimy sculpin. Amethyst Brook feeds into the Fort River and eventually the Connecticut River.
“What’s great is we’re here in Pelham, Massachusetts,” Purinton says, “but we’re also supporting the marine resources on Long Island Sound in terms of the fish that basically move in and out of the Connecticut River up into these high-quality, cold water streams.”
Purinton says the dam in Pelham is one of nine being removed throughout the state in the coming months. The removal will take five weeks and cost $193,000. It’s funded by a group of national, state, and local environmental agencies, as well as several non-profits, and HRD Press, the local publishing company that owns the dam.
Wendi Weber, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says she’s seen the benefits of dam removals throughout the northeast.
”It’s almost instant gratification, that’s why it’s so exciting. It’s amazing how many dams we removed and instantly you see the fish coming up and moving through.”
Legislation to establish a fund for dam removal and repair passed the state senate in 2011, but has since been Awaiting approval from the house ways and means committee, despite efforts to pass it late in the legislative session that ended in July. The fund would help finance many more dam removals throughout the state.