This week, the Town’s contractor (RC&D) started work to remove the Old Mill Dam in Bellingham. This is first removal of a dam along the Charles River.
Demolishing the dam will increase public safety while improving river habitat and water quality. Removing the dam will allow fish and other aquatic wildlife as well as nutrients and organic materials to move freely between the Charles River and three of its tributaries, including Mine Brook.
This project is a collaboration between the Town of Bellingham, Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, with support from Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA).
The Town received a a grant of $188,000 and low interest loan for $312,000 from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, and voted to borrow the additional funds needed to move the project forward.
The Old Mill Dam, owned by the Town of Bellingham, is located on the Charles River off of Peal Street. The dam presents a hazard in its current state. Rather than invest over $1 million in repairs, the Town decided to remove the obsolete dam which neither provides power for the abandoned mill, nor recreational opportunities. The removal of the dam will allow this section of the Charles River to flow freely and will also improve the health and safety of the Charles River downstream.
The old mill buildings located downstream of the dam are being demolished as part of a separate project.
The dam is a liability for the Town. It no longer has a useful purpose and is in poor condition. It is not only a cause of constant concern as we fear an untimely breach, but requires costly periodic inspections. The project has seen widespread support from the start, but the permitting process was still very lengthy. We want to thank Pare Corporation for getting us through the nearly two year design and permitting process, We’re glad that we are finally ready to get a contractor to work removing the dam.
Charles River Watershed Association, a non-profit whose mission includes protecting the Charles River, supports this project and hopes it will serve as an example for future dam removal and environmental restoration projects on the Charles River. “We applaud the Town of Bellingham—the first town in the Watershed to begin a dam removal project—for their initiative and willingness to do what is right for the environment and the Town,” said Bob Zimmerman, Executive Director of the organization.
As part of the project, the Town will install a stormwater retention basin to treat polluted stormwater runoff from a section of Pearl Street. This new treatment basin will reduce the amount of nutrient pollution that enters the Charles River and will help meet the pollution reduction goals established under the USEPA Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4), which is scheduled to take effect in 2017.