18. HABITAT RESTORATION ON MUNICIPAL PROPERTY
Communities can take action to improve the quality of river habitat on municipally owned properties such as dams, bridges and culverts, and parks. Habitat restoration projects at these sites can provide educational and recreational opportunities for residents, particularly when projects are clearly signed and accessible by road or trail.
Dams fundamentally alter river ecosystems by disrupting natural flow patterns, altering water temperatures, inundating wetlands, fragmenting habitat for migratory fish, and generally transforming running rivers into stagnant ponds. In New England, many small dams are abandoned relics that no longer serve their original function and are in poor condition. Removing these dams or creating high-quality fish passage through construction of bypass channels, roughened ramps, or fish ladders has the potential to reconnect fragmented habitat, restore original flow patterns, and generally improve the quality of riverine habitat.
Similarly, poorly designed and maintained road crossings – culverts and bridges – may alter flow patterns and create barriers to fish and wildlife movement. New standards are in effect for new and expanded road crossings requiring permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that culverts and bridges are broad enough to encompass the natural banks and bed of a stream. Older culverts may be repaired and replaced to meet these standards as well.
Finally, communities may undertake projects to restore degraded wetlands and riparian areas on municipal lands such as parks and conservation areas. Problems facing wetlands and riparian areas may include flow barriers or constrictions that dry up wetlands, runoff from nearby roads, insufficient buffers between developments and wetlands, and historic filling, dredging, or gravel mining that has altered the natural hydrology. Improving the quality of wetland and riparian habitat can benefit fish, migratory birds, and other species, and may reduce mosquito breeding.
The Ipswich River watershed contains approximately 70 dams and more than 500 road crossings, in various states of repair. Many of these dams and road crossings are municipally owned and managed, and offer significant potential to reconnect fragmented habitat. The EBSCO Dam in downtown Ipswich, also known as the Sylvania Dam, is owned by the town of Ipswich. The dam had a modern denil-style fish ladder installed in the mid-1990s to provide passage for blueback herring and alewife. A project to investigate fish passage options at the Willowdale Dam on the mainstem of the Ipswich River is also underway. The Ipswich River Watershed Association and the Massachusetts Riverways Program are currently partnering on a project to assess the condition of road crossings in the watershed. This project will lead to the identification of problem culverts that are serving as barriers to fish and wildlife and should be retrofitted.
Elsewhere in Massachusetts, the town of Plymouth successfully partnered with the Riverways Program and numerous other state and federal agencies to remove the Billington Street Dam on Town Brook, one component of a larger effort to restore runs of smelt and other anadromous fish on this coastal river.
Water Wise Communities: Index
- Introduction & Using the Handbook
- How Development Affects Water (link to IRWA site)
- Checklist: Is Your Community Water Wise?
- Water Wise Tools:
- Master plan for smart growth
- Integrated water resources management plan
- Comprehensive open space plan
- Water use restriction bylaw
- Outdoor water use bylaw
- Private well bylaw
- Stormwater management program and bylaws
- Open space residential design bylaw
- Source water protection program and bylaw
- Non-zoning wetlands bylaw
- Conservation water rate structure
- Water bank or offset program
- Stormwater fee or utility
- Rebate program
- Dedicated funding source for land acquisition
- Water audits and leak detection
- LID demonstration projects on municipal property
- Habitat restoration on municipal property
- Outreach program
- Water conservation coordinator