ecoRI.org: Eight years after narrowly escaping a breach, celebration surrounds the Whittenton Dam [in Taunton, Massachusetts]. Or, at least, the place where it once stood on the Mill River. Now, thanks to a visionary partnership, free-flowing water—and all the benefits it provides—passes through town on its way to the sea.
The near-collapse of the 170-year-old wooden structure during heavy rains in 2005 garnered national attention and focused the spotlight on the state’s some 3,000 dams, most of which are more than 100 years old. With only 10% of those dams still providing energy, drinking water or flood control, their future became a top priority, spurring local legislation that provided funding for their repair or removal.
The 2005 crisis also prompted the formation of the Mill River Restoration partnership. The goal of the project is to remove 3 dams along the Mill River and build a fish ladder at a fourth. Ultimately, the project will restore native alewives, blueback herring and American eel to more than 30 miles of habitat in this and other tributaries of the Taunton River, according to project officials. The project also will eliminate the public safety threat associated with the aging dams.
Read more about the restoration of fish runs on the Taunton River.