Planned dam removal at the Mill Street Dam will shift to a fish ladder and dam repair; Wiley & Russell dam removal design moving forward

Greenfield, MA. June 9, 2011 – The Town of Greenfield is announcing a design change for the Green River Ecosystem Restoration Project.

The Town of Greenfield owns both the Wiley & Russell Dam and the Mill Street Dam (aka. Greenfield Light and Power dam). The project is a partnership between the Town of Greenfield and several nonprofit and government entities, including the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC), American Rivers, Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others. The goals of the project are to restore natural river conditions at the sites and improve fish passage while also reducing the Town’s liability and costs at the dams.

Original plans had called for the removal of the two lowermost dams, the Wiley & Russell Dam and the Mill Street Dam. Now, the Mill Street dam will shift to a dam repair and fish ladder in order to adequately protect upstream infrastructure, including bridges and utility pipes. Recent studies undertaken by engineering consultants Princeton Hydro showed that the measures necessary to protect that infrastructure from sediment scour associated with dam removal would be cost prohibitive. Plans for removal of the Wiley & Russell dam are moving forward as planned.

Sandra Shields, Greenfield’s DPW Director, explained that, “From the beginning, the Town has been looking at cost effective options for these structures, while also opening up river restoration opportunities that will benefit the community. Our ultimate responsibility is to protect infrastructure along and in the river. The removal option at Mill Street dam requires infrastructure protection that is ultimately more expensive and more difficult to maintain than repairing the dam, which is why we are making the change in the design.”

CRWC has been a partner on the project, helping to receive and manage grants in order to keep the Town’s project costs low. “We have a great partnership with the Town as we have intersecting interests. There are over a thousand dams in our watershed that no longer serve a purpose, and we look for opportunities to open up river corridors in streams that offer good fish habitat. The town, in turn, has wanted to reduce costs and liability associated with dam ownership. Even though we are not able to fully remove the Mill Street dam, there will still benefits from fish passage for multiple species, and we look forward to continuing to work together,” said Andrea Donlon, river steward for CRWC.

American Rivers is one of several nonprofit and government partners working with the Town on the restoration effort. “Healthy rivers bring a suite of benefits to a community, from clean water to fish and wildlife habitat to recreation opportunities. We work with dam owners and communities to remove dams whose costs outweigh their benefits and where removal will benefit the river, wildlife, and communities. Every project is different, and the potential impacts from removal are always important to take into consideration,” said Amy Singler with American Rivers.

The Town is continuing with the design and permitting for the Wiley & Russell Dam, the first dam on the river. The Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety has required the Town to either repair or remove the dam. Removal is a significantly less expensive option at that site. Shields says, “The funding assistance that the Town is receiving from project partners is a big help in keeping the Town’s costs low for this necessary project.”

Moving forward the Town will continue to work with partners on the design and permitting for the removal of the Wiley & Russell Dam as well as the repair of the Mill Street Dam and designs for a fish ladder. There will be further opportunity for public comment through the wetlands permitting process in the coming months.

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The Connecticut River Watershed Council has been a non-profit advocate for the 11,000 square-mile watershed of the Connecticut River emphasizing fisheries restoration, erosion prevention, land conservation, and water quality since 1952. Visit CRWC online www.ctriver.org and on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/connecticutriver

American Rivers is the nation’s leading voice fighting for clean water and healthy rivers. For almost 40 years we have protected and restored rivers, scoring victories for communities, fish and wildlife, and future generations. American Rivers has offices in Washington, DC and nationwide, and more than 100,000 supporters and volunteers. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers

Contacts:

Eric Twarog, Director of Planning, Town of Greenfield, 413-772-1548
Andrea Donlon, Massachusetts River Steward, CRWC, 413-772-2020 x205
Amy Singler, Associate Director, American Rivers, 413-584-2183