NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 30, 2013

Newbury pressured to demolish old dam

(Continued)

However, Chase said his organization is not interested in telling the town which course to follow. Rather, it prefers to work with property owners to find practical solutions for fish passage maintenance and improvements.

A 2007 study conducted by the Conservation Commission, in partnership with the Mass Riverways Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), indicated significant degradation of the Larkin Mill Dam. A fish ladder that helps fish migrate around the dam has been at least partly blocked by debris, the dam study found.

It looked at the feasibility and costs of four alternatives: doing nothing ($0); replacing the dam ($645,000); partly removing it (at least $275,000); and fully removing it (at least $340,000).

“Our opinion is that dam removal is the most feasible option for that site,” Chase told selectmen.

When the board asked if there might be any resources available through Marine Fisheries to simply repair the fish ladder, Chase said his crew can handle work on small dams, but a larger project such as the dam on Larkin Road — which may need reconstruction if it isn’t removed — would be more than they could provide.

Selectman Geoff Walker inquired about new technologies that would employ natural materials for the fishway. But Chase said although these types of fishway utilize natural resources, they are still “very much engineered structures” that don’t come cheap.

In the past year Marine Fisheries has undertaken an effort to improve the fish runs of the Parker River system. The organization hired new staff at its Gloucester facility that have rebuilt failed fishway weirs at the Wollen Mill Dam in Newbury and Snuff Mill Dam in Byfield. Culvert weir repair below the Wollen Mill Dam has been funded and contracted, with work slated to begin in the upcoming year. A two-year river herring habitat assessment at the Pentucket Pond in Georgetown is ongoing.

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