Bleachery Dam Fish Passage Improvement Project
Project completed September 2005
The Charles River supports one of the largest river herring runs in Massachusetts Bay and is being used as a donor population for restoration efforts in the nearby Neponset and Ipswich Rivers. Yet, fish passage along the 80-mile Charles River is impeded by low flows, especially during the dry summer months, and a series of 20 dams, which have created ponded, slowing moving waters. Although recent improvements by the State, including replacement of the baffles in the Watertown Dam fish ladder, only 20% (as compared to a desired 90%) of the river herring that migrate up the river traverse past Watertown Dam to spawn according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Moving upstream from Watertown Dam, fish pass the Bemis Dam freely because of a breach 25 years ago. Upstream of the Bemis Dam, Bleachery Dam in Waltham has provided a challenge to fish attempting to traverse its height. The dam was partially breached on the Newton side for fish passage over ten years ago by the Metropolitan District Commission, forerunner to the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and provided some fish access, however, USFWS and the MA Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) recommended an additional breach on the Waltham side (north side) of the dam to significantly improve fish passage.
Goals and Objectives
CRWA worked with DCR and DMF to create an additional passageway for fish on the north side of the river. This project allows anadromous fish (fish that spend most of their lives at sea and return to freshwater to spawn) to run more easily from Boston Harbor to Moody Street in Waltham, where the next dam is located, and have access to additional spawning grounds. DCR and DMF have committed to providing the labor and materials to partially breach the dam to the maximum financial extent possible. CRWA efforts included facilitation of the restoration work, preparation and submission of local permit application to the Waltham Conservation Commission, and coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and other state agencies on other environmental permit requirements. This project is funded by the Massachusetts
- Coordinate with DCR, DMF, MA Riverways, and ACOE. CRWA worked with our project partners to determine all of the necessary environmental permits for this project, prepare and submit the local conservation commission permit and coordinate development of other permit applications.
- Apply for Permit. CRWA prepared and submitted a Request for Determination of Applicability form to the Waltham Conservation Commission, which described the work proposed in the Charles River and measures to mitigate impacts. CRWA and DCR attended a Waltham Conservation Commission hearing to present the proposed work and address the committee members and the public's concerns and questions about the project.
- Monitor/Count Fish. Upon the completion of the breach on the north side of the dam, CRWA attempted to count fish at Watertown and Bleachery Dams.
Completed in September 2005, the second opening on the north side of Bleachery Dam was installed and is in working order. Fish in the river now have better passage through Bleachery Dam as they can now swim along the sides of the river and traverse the dam on both the north and south sides.