Western MA Town Fish Ladder Project Makes Headway

The Mayor of Easthampton, Massachusetts has awarded a contract to a Hudson-based company to complete a fish ladder at the Manhan River Dam after about a decade of delays.

Since 2003, city and environmental officials have considered a variety of solutions for helping fish get upstream, even removing the dam altogether. That’s according to Melissa Grader who’s a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She says federal stimulus funds helped the project come to life in 2010, but construction came to a halt later that year when contractors discovered wooden timbers buried underwater below the dam.

“Once the timbers were encountered the city hired some divers to determine the extent and location of the timbers and they also hired a drilling company to do boring into the dam itself so that they could have information on how the timbers related to the concrete portions of the dam.”

A fish Ladder on the Manhan will open up over 10 miles OF river enhancing the quantity of habitat available to fish, AS the current structure of the dam doesn’t help them make their way upstream.  Another benefit, according to Grader, would be to surrounding wildlife.

“By providing an increased forage space for larger fishes, fish eating birds such as king fishers, herons, mergansers as well as mammals such as otters and raccoons living around the Manhan River.”

The fish ladder being constructed is a Denil fishwayand is similar to one at the Westfield River dam in West Springfield where record numbers of American Shad passed last year. The project is being paid for through a variety of government sources , including stimulus and U.S. Fish and Wildlife funds, and settlement monies from the release of coal and tar into the Connecticut River. Construction of the Manhan fish ladder is set to be completed this summer.