Brook Restoration Project Begins in Massachusetts

Officials from the Department of Fish and Games (DFG), river advocates, and federal and local partners celebrated by beginning of the Amethyst Brook Restoration on Oct. 17, 2012.

In Pelham, Massachusetts, the project will be kicked off by the removal of the historic Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam. This type of dam can alter and compromise habitat quality by obstructing the natural movement of organic matter, sediment, fish, and wildlife. Removal of the dam is expected to take five weeks and cost $193,000. In order to honor the historical nature of the site, a portion of the dam will remain intact.

The dam blocks upstream passage of migratory fish and negatively affects the ecological condition of the stream. Species, such as sea lamprey, American eel, brook and brown trout, and slimy sculpin, are expected to benefit from the project. Demolition of the dam began yesterday.

“Removal of the dam will restore the aquatic habitat so that it equals the exemplary conditions that exist in Amethyst Brook upstream of the dam,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan. “This project will open up approximately nine miles of upstream habitat and re-connect 253 miles of downstream habitat extending to the Connecticut River.”

Amethyst Brook is home to some of the most diverse aquatic life in the Commonwealth, and is a tributary to Fort River.

"Restoring Amethyst Brook plays an important role in protecting the Fort River watershed, a valuable part of the Service's Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge and home to brook trout, sea lamprey, Atlantic salmon and the endangered dwarf wedgemussel," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber.

The Bartlett Rod Shop Co. Dam was originally built in 1820 to provide power for the adjacent gristmill, and then powered a fishing rod manufacturing facility until 1931. Today, the dam no longer serves any commercial purpose, is in disrepair, and is listed as a significant hazard structure by the state Office of Dam Safety.

The dam removal project is being funded with $158,091 from the Holyoke Coal Tar Natural Resource Damages (NRD) Trustee Council. The remainder of the funds has been allocated to the Manhan River fishway project, and to a freshwater mussel survey in reaches of the Connecticut River. Funds not expended for those projects will be used to remove the Orient Springs dam in Pelham and to remove invasive water chestnut from Log Cove in the Connecticut River.

“This is one of the best ecological restoration projects we’ve seen, and will benefit Amethyst Brook and the Fort River. It eliminates a safety hazard and helps a valuable local business,” said Dana MacDonald, Chair of the Pelham Conservation Commission. “We deeply appreciate the private landowner, historical commission, and other partners for working together for years to make this happen.”

"This restoration project is a great example of a cooperative partnership between state and federal agencies, municipalities, non-profits, and the dam's private owner,” said Representative Stephen Kulik. “It is a wise investment in the environment which will enhance habitat protection and the quality of life in our region for future generations to enjoy."

“We are pleased that funds from our Clean Water Act enforcement case can be part of this dam removal project which will help improve water quality,” said Becky Smith of Clean Water Action. “The settlement also requires that Trew Stone Inc. reduce pollution in stormwater discharges from its site. All told this is a real benefit to local waters.”

Massachusetts Environmental Trust grants are made possible by more than 40,000 Massachusetts drivers who have purchased one of the “Preserve the Trust” environmental license plates from the RMV. To learn more about this project, visit