Stream Continuity and Why It Matters for Massachusetts Rivers
Animals that live in or along rivers and streams need to be able to move within and along these streams in order to survive (and often, reproduce). Dams and roads serve as often insurmountable barriers to wildlife movement, with severe impacts on the health and viability of our wildlife populations. For more detail on the ecological importance of stream continuity, visit this excellent site:
The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance organized a series of six workshops for municipalities across the state, together with members of the River Continuity Partnership in 2013; the presentations are available in our online document library:
Massachusetts is part of a larger North Atlantic Aquatic Continuity Collaborative working together on these issues. More information is available at:
Massachusetts has over 3,000 small dams on it waterways. Many of these are old, built to support mills or to generate hydropower, and are not actively used today. Some of them pose a threat to public safety and are a burden for owners to maintain. The dams have created a lot of ponded habitat, at the expense of free flowing river habitat. Massachusetts is working with many local entities and nonprofit partners to remove some of these dams and restore the natural river ecosystem. A coalition of local partners, for example, has worked with the state to restore the Miller River, a tributary to the Taunton. Two dams have been removed and fish passage was added to another dam. Learn more here:
In 2013 Massachusetts created the Dam and Seawall Repair Program to address the public safety issues posed by deteriorating dams and seawalls. A grant program was established to provide funds for removal or repair (
http://www.mass.gov/eea/waste-mgnt-recycling/water-resources/preserving-water-resources/water-laws-and-policies/water-laws/draft-regs-re-dam-and-sea-wall-repair-or-removal-fund.html).The first round of grants were made in October 2015 and included over $600K for removal of a dam on the Westfield River. The highest priority dams for removal in this program are those whose removal would increase public safety and restore priority aquatic habitat.
Bridges & Culverts
Highway engineers know full well the challenges of sizing a culvert under a roadway to channel streams. If the culvert design does not accommodate high flows in the stream (and these high flows are increasing with climate change), flooding and erosion occurs. Fish and other wildlife may be unable to use the stream or streambed and become displaced. The goal of restoring river continuity is to reduce impediments to movement of fish, wildlife and other aquatic life that use the river corridor to travel. The River Continuity Partnership is a collaborative effort with the state’s Division of Ecological Restoration (part of the Department of Fish and Game), the University of Massachusetts Extension, The Nature Conservancy, and other nonprofit and agency partners. The Partnership has developed several guidance documents useful to project engineers and conservation commissions to assess culverts, and also a handbook to guide culvert construction. The guidelines are required as part of Army Corps of Engineers permits for dredge and fill in a stream. This page has links to the handbook and other guidance.