Saturday, December 18, 2010

Want to save the Fyfeshire Ponds? Sign our petitions.

Did you know that the Conservation Commission has voted to remove the dam at the far end of the Fyfeshire Pond on Wattaquadock Hill Rd. in Bolton? To learn more, see our November 28 blog or check out our In the News page.

A group of us has drafted two petitions, one to the Conservation Commission, the other to the Board of Selectmen. We are now collecting signatures. They have to be signed in person, not electronically. If you agree we should save the dam, please send an email to, and we will find a way to get the petition to you for signature. Below is the content of the two petitions.

The petition to the Bolton Conservation Commission:


We, the undersigned, petition the Conservation Commission to reverse its vote to have the lower dam at Fyfeshire Conservation land dismantled. The Town of Bolton has very few conservation areas with a small pond and waterfall plus a larger pond which is a sanctuary for amphibians. Further, this site is home to a young Bald Eagle, an endangered species, as well as Blandings turtles, a threatened species. Bolton is fortunate that Helen Plummer donated this land for people to enjoy. This is a beautiful and historical parcel, which was the site of a button factory around the turn of the 20th century and earlier a comb factory in the first half of the 19th century. Sometime in the 1800s this was a cranberry bog according to legend. Mink were farmed here and there were many great Fish and Game clambakes and outings up to the late 1930s. Many ice skating parties were held here up to the early 1980s. Ms Plummer had a little cabin by the small pond which burned down in that era.

The long term environmental impact far outweighs the projected cost of this dam removal.

The petition to the Board of Selectmen:
We, the undersigned petition the Selectmen of the Town of Bolton to abstain from voting in agreement with the Conservation Commission with regard to dismantling the dam at the Fyfeshire Conservation area, which will result in drying up the existing ponds. The environmental impact will be a detriment to the wildlife and amphibians that live and thrive in this sanctuary. Fyfeshire is home to Blandings turtles, a threatened species and a young Bald Eagle – an endangered species. The Group for the Preservation of Fyfeshire is working to bring the lower dam up to safe standards through restoration while reducing the current estimated cost to the taxpayers.
Want to sign? Send an email to and let us know. Thanks.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's going on?

Take a look at the two photos at the top of the page.One shows the pond at Fyfeshire Conservation area as it is now, the other shows what it would be like after the dam removal recommended this month by the Bolton Conservation Commission.

In case you haven't heard, the Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety has determined that the Fyfeshire dam is  “a Significant Hazard Dam in an Unsafe Condition.”  View letter from the state (PDF). The state of Massachusetts has told Bolton that we need to repair or remove the dam at the far end of the big pond in the Fyfeshire conservation area on Wattaquadock Hill Rd. in Bolton.  If we don't show a "good faith effort" to comply, the state might start imposing fines.

The town has responded by commissioning a couple of studies.  The first was an examination of either removing or repairing the dam.  About a year ago there was a meeting for interested townspeople to learn the results of this study. About 30-40 people showed up, almost all of them folks who live near Fyfeshire and all opposed to removing the dam.

The investigation offered a number of alternatives for both repair and removal. The report can be viewed on the Town of Bolton website View report (PDF-big file, be patient) The best repair alternative was estimated to cost $495,000, with two other alternatives estimated at $479,000 and $486,000.These costs include maintenance for the next 50 years. The best removal alternative came in at $443,000, with a fair removal option estimated to cost $324,000.

The second study the town commissioned was to explore the impact of dam removal. The results of that study (PDF--big file, takes a while to download) are on the town website.    I attended the meeting on Nov. 16 where  the results of this study were presented. 

Here’s what I learned:  Basically, taking out the dam would dry up the pond.  One part of the pond is quite deep and would likely remain—at least for part of the year-- as a vernal pool that provides "excellent habitat for amphibians and reptile species." A road would have to be built to get the equipment to the dam.

Although the smaller dam is not considered unsafe, the small pond is likely to be impacted too.  The report talks of engineering a channel around the small pond to allow fish to move up and downstream.  This would  result in “portions of the year in which water depths in the small pond at the upstream dam are very low.”  Translation: say good-bye to the small pond as well as the big one. 

But this is not about fish, it’s about costs.  The cost estimate from the second study came to $335,000 for dam removal. The town has no money to spare and a lot of competing priorities--very important items, like schools and public safety--vying for very few dollars. Something has to be done, and it's likely to come with a hefty price tag. The question is how hefty, and what does the town want at the end: open water or a field of skunk cabbage? No matter what solution the town comes up with, the funding has to be approved by voters. Berlin residents--especially those living near the ponds--are likely to be impacted by the outcome too.  

The commission told meeting attendees that they would be making a decision in the next few weeks.  After the public meeting adjourned, they took a vote to recommend dam removal.

Take another look at the two photos:  which do you prefer?  Send an email to and let us know what you think.