Ladders for Herrings

February 17, 2015 0 Comment(s) Animal Ladders, Fish Ladders,
[caption id="attachment_2510" align="alignright" width="275"]Scituate lighthouse on a pebbled beach. Scituate[/caption]Herrings have been the subject of many fish ladder and waterway improvements: recently we looked at the replacement of the fish ladder at the Nequasset Dam in Maine and the proposed improvements to the waterways around Rochester, Massachusetts in our last tour of the fish ladder world.  The town of Scituate, also in Massachusetts, is to see an improvement in the local herring population shortly, as the renovation of the fish ladder and raising of the water level in the reservoir above has been approved by the Federal Government as part of an environmental bill.The good news for the residents of Scituate and the surrounding areas is that because the work is government mandated, they may qualify for a grant to cover all, or part of the cost of the project, so it will not impact too much on the purse of the local authorities.  Samantha Woods, executive director of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, which oversees the waterways in the area, said, “It’s a step in the right direction and lets people know this is a priority”.  The association has been working for years to improve the waterways and fish ladders in the area, but needed the last few tasks to be backed by a federal bill in order to ensure they were carried out.The work to renovate the fish ladder is set to cost around $1.33 million, with an extra $650,000 being sought to fund the investigation into removing dams along the stretch of water, which contribute to the problems faced by the migrating herring.  Initially, the fish ladder at First Herring Brook (a slightly ironic name, as there are no longer any herring able to reach it) needs to be renovated, as it is not operational in its current state.Close up of first herring brook fish ladderThe next phase of the work requires the water level in the reservoir behind the dam to be raised, which will increase the flow of water and levels down the river, thereby making the First Herring Brook ladder and one downstream fully functional again.  The fish ladders in question are the pool and weir type, where a series of small dams and pools creates a watery staircase for fish to jump up from one pool to the other.  Due to this design, there needs to be a reasonable water level in the river otherwise the fish cannot swim and jump up the ladder. Also included as part of the bill is a plan to dredge the North and South rivers to improve the water flow and reduce the risk of flash flooding and then use the nutrient-rich dredged material to enrich the habitat of coastal birds and other marine animals.If government funding can be obtained then the projects will go ahead much sooner than if the local authorities are responsible.  The total sum needed for the projects is $7.18 million, so the funding issue is certainly an important one; without a grant the work could take a long time to complete and the herring don’t have that luxury.If the fish ladders around Scituate are made workable and the water level is managed properly then the returning herring would have access to a 70 acre pond as well as spawning grounds further upstream that have not been used for decades.  The impact on the local environment and the economy will be enormous, providing stability to the herring fishery industry and making the rivers a nicer place to be.  Here’s hoping that the government will at least help to fund these important environmental projects.

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