Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Removal of Whittenton Mill Dam

The Mill River continues to take back its channel and floodplain upstream of Whittenton Mill. This dam, the last one before the fish ladder at Lake Sabbatia, has come out in just one week, leaving the Reed & Barton dam as the last fish passage impediment on the river. This dam in particular has lived in its infamy as the dam that nearly flooded downtown Taunton during a storm in 2005. The partial failure of this dam set in motion the Mill River Restoration Project as well as many of the recent policy changes we have seen surrounding dams in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

It was with this history in mind that a press conference was held on July 19th to highlight the importance floodplain restoration, dam safety and habitat coming together in one important project. At this press conference, the first scoop was taken off the dam and it was clear from the speakers that our understanding of the hazards posed by dams to both our communities and our river systems has grown in recent years. This photo from The Nature Conservancy shows the first scoop. News coverage from the event includes ABC6 news in Providence, and the Taunton Gazette.

The original dam was constructed of concrete that lay on top of cedar timbers, with a timber spillway structure above. Rock was placed on the dam when it was partially removed in 2005. Now that the rock and timber have been removed, the river is back in its original channel which was revealed quickly after drawdown. Team members from DER and The Nature Conservancy assisted with the relocation of rare Eastern pondmussel from the upper impoundment into Lake Sabbatia.

In the coming weeks, stream bank construction, shaping of the flood plain and planting will be completed.