Building a Stronger Coast
From left to right: White Rock Dam, Bradford Dam, Potter Hill Dam Fishway, Shady Lea Mill Dam. Credit: USFWS
Resilience shield

Connecting Waterways & Protecting Communities: Dam Removal and Fishway Assessment on the Pawcatuck River, and Dam Removal on the Mattatuxet River

Location: Connecticut and Rhode Island

Project type: Resilience

Funding awarded: $2,294,250


White Rock Dam removal project began July 2015

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is leading an effort to remove White Rock Dam on the lower Pawcatuck River on the border of Stonington, Conn. and Westerly, R.I.

Project Summary

These projects will restore connections of streams to regional river systems, enhance fish passage and reduce the risk of flooding and dam failure during future storm events. Two dams will be removed and one fishway will be repaired or replaced on the Pawcatuck River in Rhode Island and Connecticut. One dam will be removed from the Mattatuxet River in North Kingstown, Rhode Island where 0.5 mile of stream access will be restored and a new natural riparian area will be created in a former water impoundment. This will benefit river herring and American eel.

Conservation Goals

  • Restore river connectivity and enhance fish passage at all four sites benefiting river herring, American shad and American eel
  • Reduce the risk of dam failure and flooding during future storm events

Project Benefits

  • Reduces or eliminates flood risk from aging dams
  • Restores river access to Trust species in 22 miles of mainstream habitat, 48 miles of tributaries and 1,967 acres of pond habitat for migratory fish populations in the Pawcatuck River, Mattatuxet River, Little Narragansett Bay and surrounding estuaries
  • Significantly increases benefit to commercial and sport fishing

Project Partners

  • Save The Bay, Inc.
  • Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council
  • Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Habitat Restoration Partnership
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS)
  • Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP)
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
  • Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE)

Additional Details

Hurricanes Sandy and Irene spotlighted a need for removing aging and obsolete dams in the Northeast to eliminate flood risk to adjacent communities. Removing these dams will address these human safety and liability concerns. Additionally, the project has the potential to increase fish populations, and according to the the 2011 USFWS National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, over $130 billion is generated by fishing and fishing-related industries on these rivers and around the bay, and an increase in catch could provide significantly increased economic benefit to the region.

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Dam Removal Project Map

White Rock Dam Removal Photos

Dam Assessment & Removal Photos




Last updated: February 8, 2016