Hurricane Sandy Recovery
Recovery, restoration & building coastal resilience
Left: Whittendon Dam, Right: West Britannia Dam
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Whittenton and West Britannia Dam Removals

Location: Massachusetts

Project type: Resilience

Funding: $650,000

Project Summary

This project removes two aging mill dams from the Mill River in Taunton, Massachusetts and increases the benefits of a restored river system while protecting human structures. The project is opening up 30 miles of high-quality habitat for American eel and river herring, which are under consideration for federal listing. It will also reduce the probability of flooding and eliminate the potential for catastrophic dam breaches posed by these obsolete dams.

Conservation Goals

  • Restore fish river access and pond habitat
  • Eliminate the threat of catastrophic dam failure in future flooding

Project Benefits

  • Reduces the probability of flooding and prevents the collapse of two aging dams, one of which nearly failed in 2005
  • Increases the natural flood control of the river and downstream coastal ecosystem by opening 30 miles of river and pond habitat to river herring (includes both alewife and blue-backed herring) and American eel
  • Restores water quality and instream habitat conditions in the impounded reachesCreates jobs and contributes to the local economy

Project Benefits

  • Reduces the probability of flooding and prevents the collapse of two aging dams, one of which nearly failed in 2005
  • Increases the natural flood control of the river and downstream coastal ecosystem by opening 30 miles of river and pond habitat to river herring (includes both alewife and blue-backed herring) and American eel
  • Restores water quality and instream habitat conditions in the impounded reaches
  • Creates jobs and contributes to the local economy

Project Partners

  • Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (MADER)
  • American Rivers
  • NOAA Restoration Center
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
  • Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
  • Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District
  • Taunton River Watershed Alliance
  • Reed & Barton

Additional Details

This project builds on other dam removal projects in Massachusetts that restore aquatic habitat and reduce public safety threats. Dam removal is essential for stronger riverine and coastal communities and ecosystems, and research shows the magnitude and frequency of large storms is increasing in Massachusetts. This project leverages benefits of dam removal projects proposed and ongoing elsewhere in the Taunton watershed including the Mill River, Rattlesnake Brook, the Canoe River, and the Cotley River. Long term monitoring will track the effects of the project on fish which migrate from salt to fresh water; results will be published in peer-reviewed journals.

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Last updated: June 30, 2014