On Wednesday, March 5th, Franz Ingelfinger, a restoration ecologist with the Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), led a group site visit to the Carding Mill Dam on Cold Brook within the Bank Street Bogs Nature Preserve in Harwich. The group, including a consulting engineer and Harwich town officials, was there to take a look at the 80-foot long, eight-foot high dam that was slated for future removal as part of a larger habitat restoration project. What they found was a surprise that spurred the team into immediate action.
The Bank Street Bogs Nature Preserve is a retired cranberry bog complex owned by the Harwich Conservation Trust that DER designated as a Priority Project in 2011. Still in its design phase, the project will restore natural habitat conditions within the brook and its floodplain, improving the ecological functions of surrounding wetlands. This habitat is important for many species of fish and wildlife, and has been designated as Core Habitat and Critical Natural Landscape by the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.
Upon arrival at the dam site, the team quickly observed that the dam was about to collapse into Cold Brook. In addition to being a safety hazard, collapse of the dam would have resulted in environmental damage and partial blockage of the brook, and would have made removal of the dam much more difficult in the future. Allowing the dam to remain in this condition was not an option.
Immediately, DER and the Town of Harwich got to work developing a game plan to remove the dam as quickly as possible. On March 10th, the Harwich Board of Selectmen ordered the issuance of an emergency certification for removal of the Carding Mill Dam. DER worked with the Harwich Conservation Commission and state and federal regulators, to secure the required emergency approvals for dam removal. DER also contracted with Stantec consultants to facilitate the approval process by rapidly preparing a design for the safe demolition of the dam.
Only 20 days after the initial site visit, dam removal was ready to commence (on a project that, under normal circumstances, can take anywhere from one to three years to complete). On March 25th, facing an approaching blizzard, the Harwich Department of Public Works quickly mobilized to remove the entire dam in a single day, while ensuring that the stream banks were properly stabilized to withstand storm flows.
This project, like many taken on by the DER team, showcases how great teamwork creates great results for communities and the environment.
Click the video link below to see the dam removal in action from start to finish (in less than three minutes): https://www.flickr.com/photos/der_riverways/13699377505/in/photostream
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