Tag Archives: Massachusetts

The Removal of the Old Mill Dam along the Charles River in Bellingham, MA

By Allen R. Orsi, P.E. Managing Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials

It is a wonderful feeling when a vision comes to fruition, especially when it has taken years for the project to be completed.  The removal of the Old Mill Dam in Bellingham, Massachusetts is a good example of what can be accomplished through strong project partnerships.   Pare Corporation and the Town of Bellingham began conversations in 2008 about the future of the Old Mill Dam, which was found to be in poor structural condition.  At the time, the dam was classified as a ‘significant hazard potential dam’ by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MADCR) Office of Dam Safety.

Upon completion of several studies and evaluation of the benefits of dam removal versus rehabilitation, it was decided that removing the obsolete dam would increase public safety, save taxpayer dollars, and improve the ecosystem along the river.

Pare worked very closely with the Town to prepare a grant application for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Program to secure funding for the majority of the design and permitting of the project, as well as a no-interest loan to offset the cost of construction.

Pare also worked with the Town to apply for and receive priority project status through the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (DER).  Once funding was secured, Pare coordinated with DER to obtain environmental permits and draft dam removal plans that would minimize the impact of deconstruction on the environment.

For the project to be completed, Old Mill Pond was incrementally drained through partial demolition of the concrete spillway to allow for dam removal activity to be completed in a dewatered area.  Roughly 2,300 cubic yards of mercury-impacted sediment were removed from the pond and permanently disposed of onsite within a special containment berm constructed beyond the level of the post-dam removal 100-yr floodplain.  This approach saved significant costs to the Town associated with offsite disposal of the impacted sediment.  It also effectively removed 15 pounds of mercury from the riverine habitat.

Last week, temporary construction facilities were removed, allowing for the unrestricted flow of the river through this location for the first time in more than 150 years. Fish and other aquatic life are now able to move freely along this section of the Charles River and its tributaries, which will help restore a more robust ecosystem.

As this is the first dam that has been removed along the main stem of the Charles River, the Charles River Watershed Association hopes that the project will encourage other communities to consider dam removal and environmental restoration projects along the river.

And the Winner of PARE’s 3rd Annual Earth Day Photo Contest Is…

Happy Earth Day, everyone – and congratulations to Jay Bowen, the winner of PARE’s 3rd annual Earth Day Photo contest!

We received thirteen great entries this year, so it was a difficult choice! Jay’s “The Plight of the Bumblebee” swept the competition with nine votes.

 

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The “Plight” of the Bumblebee
“More than an annoying summertime buzz
More than a stinger on a tiny ball of fuzz
The Bee works all day to produce the perfect food
A sweet, delicate treat for when you’re in the mood
No need for tools, chemicals, or artificial power
To gently coast from flower to flower
A form of agriculture not to be surpassed
The Bee has perfected sustainability built to last
But the Bee’s population has started to decline
Pesticides and poor environment come to mind
So let’s stay green and give our BeeFF’s a hand
For as Einstein said “No bees, no man”

Jay will receive a gift card to Panera Bread, a company that encourages us to “Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously”. To learn about how Panera promotes sustainability and gives back to the community, click here.

Special thanks to all who entered the contest this year! Check them out here.

Photo 1: ”Taking Advantage of a Windy and Sunny day at the Beach” by David Matheson

Photo 2: “Walking on Water!” by Melodie Hebert

Photo 3: “Beauty of the World” by Joe Malo

Photo 4: “Fuel Production Plant” by Simon McGrath

Photo 5: “A Foraging Egret” by Lauren Hastings

Photo 6: “Jellyfish Awareness” by Scott Lindgren

Photo 7: “Roman Aqueduct” by Brandon Blanchard

Photo 8: “Maintaining Our Environment” by Kevin Vivieros

Photo 9: “Great Egret” by Briscoe Lang

Photo 11: “San Sebastian Spain” by Brian Mahoney

Photo 12: “Lake Winnipesaukee Sunset” by Devon Ward

Photo 13: “Mono Lake” by David Easterbrooks

A Sustainable Alternative to Cape Traffic

As a lifelong resident of the Boston area, trips to Cape Cod have always been a quintessential part of summertime and a relaxing escape from city life. The only major downside? Horrendous Cape traffic!

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is introducing an alternative mode of transportation with the “Cape Cod Flyer”, a new seasonal train service from Boston to Hyannis. The Flyer will run on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, using existing rail lines and MBTA equipment. This will be the first time in 25 years that train service is available from Boston to Cape Cod.

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Once arriving in Hyannis, riders will have easy access to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket ferries, the Barnstable Municipal Airport, and buses. Passengers will be allowed to bring bicycles on board, encouraging visitors to take advantage of the region’s extensive network of bike paths.

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Sandy Neck beach in Barnstable, Hyannis

At $35 for a round trip ticket, the train fare costs less than many would spend on gas – and provides a comfortable, environmentally friendly alternative to gridlock on Route 3.

Read this story on WickedLocal for more information!

A Day At Wolf Hollow

This weekend, I had the unforgettable opportunity to meet a pack of endangered Gray Wolves.  I volunteered a morning of wetland consulting at Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, and in return I got to experience an informative and up-close encounter with their wolves.

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Prior to European settlement, the Gray Wolf was the top predator throughout most of the United States.  Their population was depleted through a combination of intentional killing and habitat loss, and a species once numbering in the millions in the U.S. was reduced to about 5,000. Wolf Hollow was established in 1990 with the mission of educating the public about the importance of protecting the Gray Wolf in the wild. The Sanctuary is now run by the founder’s son Zee Soffron who resides on the property, and a team of dedicated volunteers. Weekly presentations offer an informative look at the often misunderstood animal, and as well as an opportunity to view their ten resident wolves at close range.

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Zee Soffron, owner of Wolf Hollow, playing with the pack.

The licensed non-profit organization is supported solely through admission, gift shop sales, and donations. The visitor center, located on the first floor of the Soffron’s home, provides educational resources on the ecology of the Gray Wolf. Having outgrown the space, Wolf Hollow plans to construct a small standalone visitor center. I spent the morning walking the site and preparing a sketch of the general locations of wetlands on the property, and discussing what to expect in the permitting process once they are ready to move forward. Afterwards, I was given the rare opportunity to photograph wolves up close through openings in the fence!

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Meet Bear, a wolf-dog hybrid. I got to give this friendly fellow a scratch.

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I stuck around for the afternoon presentation – and I am so glad I did. The lecture was informative for small children and adults alike. Topics included how wolf lives in a family group, its role in nature, its surprisingly close ties to man, and the ongoing fight to preserve the species in the wild.

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The roles of the Gray Wolf in maintaining a sustainable landscape are more far-reaching than one might realize. For example, did you know that reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 has improved the quality of river habitat? Elk favor shady riverbanks, and when a herd lingers on one area the banks become overgrazed and erosive, damaging aquatic ecosystems. Predation from wolves has encouraged herd movement and dispersion, allowing riverbanks and other areas to recover naturally.

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Wolf on the Prowl at Yellowstone National Park

Sometimes it is easy to forget that all domestic dogs, from Husky to Pug, can be traced back to wolves, and many wolf-like behaviors are still apparent in domestic canines. Ever wonder why your dog rolls around on the ground when he discovers an intriguing scent? This behavior can be traced to a method of communication between members of a wolf pack. When a wolf picks up a new or unfamiliar scent, he will return it to his pack to relay a message: whether it be news of a potential rival, an unfamiliar animal, or a new source of food.

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My dog Cody often does this on hikes. Who knew he was picking up a scent to bring back to his “pack”?

Of particular interest were the discussions of the social dynamics within the pack. Wolf Hollow’s former Alpha Male Weeble recently passed away, and the pack is in a state of flux as males compete for dominance. Zee explained that the hierarchy is based more on confidence and behavior than size or strength. Case in point: Arrow, a smaller male, appears to be the top contender for Alpha. It will be interesting to see how these dynamics play out in the coming weeks!

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Arrow, a top contender for Alpha male. Photo by Michael Sterling from the Wolf Hollow Facebook Page.

I highly recommend a trip to Wolf Hollow, and I look forward to seeing how plans for a Visitor Center unfold. To learn more about Wolf Hollow, visit their website.

Also, be sure to “Like” their Facebook Page for updates on the wolves  and other goings-on.