June declared Rivers Month
CLARKSBURG – With a national, month-long river conservation awareness campaign underway, federal, state, local and conservation organization officials today gathered at the site of the former Briggsville Dam in Clarksburg to celebrate its removal and the restoration of the North Hoosic River.
Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin and American Rivers Director Brian Graber joined officials from the US Department of Agriculture and state legislators to recognize the efforts of those who contributed to the North Hoosic River restoration project and to proclaim June as Rivers Month in Massachusetts.
Removal of the 15-foot high and 145-foot long dam also eliminates the threat of dam failure to the properties downstream; reduces the risk of upstream flooding and saves jobs by eliminating the need for costly repairs by its private owner.
The dam was owned by Cascade School Supplies, which purchased the building – and the dam with it – about five years ago. With the high cost of repairs to the dam, Cascade School Supplies faced the prospect of abandoning the facility and laying off employees, leaving the community without one of its largest employers. Cascade School Supplies has been in business for 78 years and seasonally employs over 150 people in Northern Berkshire County.
After the Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety, part of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, statewide inspection, the Briggsville Dam was classified as needing significant repairs. With financial assistance from USDA and conservation partners and support from DFG’s Division of Ecological Restoration, Cascade School Supplies is now able to remove the dam - saving operating costs to retain jobs.
"This project not only restores critical natural habitat and protects public safety but supports a local business - protecting people, the environment and jobs at the same time. This is a good environmental stewardship model for communities across the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan Jr.
Since the 1840s, the Briggsville Dam has blocked the movement of aquatic species, negatively impacted water quality by increasing water temperatures in the impoundment, and decreased the movement of beneficial sediment downstream.
A diverse group of public and private partners came together in the restoration effort of the North Branch of the Hoosic River. USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service contributed $350,000 in financial support, while other conservation partners provided an additional $260,000 bringing total funding for the dam removal project to nearly $610,000. The estimate to repair the dam was $700,000.
In addition to dam removal, the project involved stabilizing and vegetating river banks, protecting an upstream bridge, and restoring native stream and riparian habitat.
“This project exemplifies how federal, state and local partners can come together to restore wildlife habitat, enhance communities and stimulate local economies,” said Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment at USDA Ann Mills. “I’m proud that USDA was able to play a key role in this river restoration project that is so important to the Town of Clarksburg.”
“Our office was proud to have played a small but important role in this river restoration project, the support from the federal partners at Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was critical for the completion of this dam removal, with communities saddled with ageing and unsafe infrastructure, projects like this make sense from a fiscal as well as environmental perspective and we look forward to partnering with the Commonwealth and others to do more of this work throughout the 1st District,” said Congressman John Olver.
“The removal of the dam has reconnected over 30 miles of stream for the benefit of wild trout, endangered species and range of native species that need clean, flowing water to thrive.” said Commissioner Griffin.
“Today is a celebration for northern Berkshire County,” said Sen. Benjamin B. Downing. “Removing this hazardous dam ensures public safety, improves river habitat and, perhaps unexpectedly, preserves existing jobs in the region by eliminating significant financial strain on Cascade School Supplies. This public/private partnership is a win for everyone involved – I’m thankful that the partners’ ingenuity and commitment resulted with this success.”
“We are grateful to the diverse team of people and organizations committed to the removal of the dam and protection of the environment, especially the restoration of endangered species and critical habitats along this waterway,” said Rep. Gailanne Cariddi
The mission of the Division of Ecological Restoration is to restore and protect the health and integrity of the Commonwealth's rivers, wetlands, and watersheds for the benefit of people, fish, and wildlife.
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.