The Bolton Conservation Trust held a walk around the Fyfeshire conservation area on Sunday afternoon, March 13. Beth Lambert, River Restoration Program Coordinator for the Division of Ecological Restoration of the MA Department of Fish and Game talked about dam removal in Massachusetts. Both Ms. Lambert and Al Ferry, President of the Bolton Conservation Trust (not to be confused with the Bolton Conservation Commission) were quick to point out that dam removal vs. repair is a complex issue that is the town's decision and that Ms. Lambert is merely providing information as an expert on dam removal. She outlined the issue of dam safety across the state and the history of dam building in Massachusetts. Rona Balco provided a history of the Fyfeshire Conservation area.
There were at least 40 people in attendance, of all ages (plus a few dogs). A few things from Ms. Lambert's talk that struck me were:
- In describing what the area might look like after dam removal, there was a variety of description from a stream going through the area to a meadow to a vernal pool. Over the long term, it is likely the area would fill in to become a red maple forest. It is difficult to predict exactly what course nature will take.
- Re. what would happen to the fish in the pond, Ms. Lambert said they would be trapped and relocated to another suitable habitat. Re. the birds that people now enjoy watching, the herons would probably stay if the area develops a vernal pool but the other birds would move to another open body of water.
- When the water is removed, the silt left behind provides rich soil for seeds, and vegetation grows in very quickly--possibly including invasive species.
- Beavers often build dams in the narrow necks such as the one where the Fyfeshire Dam is located.. However, in no project that Ms. Lambert knows of has this been the case (so we can't rely on them to rebuild the dam for us!)
Ms. Lambert had several handouts that were passed around, but not many people were able to see them because of the large number. She said she would make them available to the town for posting on the website.
Selectmen's Meeting, March 10
At this meeting, members of the Group for the Preservation of Fyfeshire presented their case for dam repair. Several members of the group presented arguments for repair of the dam, including that it
- retains the beauty of the area,
- conserves the existing ecosystem
- upholds the trust of the person who donated the area that the town would keep it as it is, and
- preserves a piece of town history.
The group also presented letters from the Berlin Conservation Commission and the Clinton Fish and Game Protective Association in support of the efforts to keep the dam in place. The text of those letters can be found on our Supporters page.
The Conservation Commission requested to lower the price it is asking for removal at town meeting to $360,000. This request was approved. In response, we requested to lower the amount we are asking to $396,000. Our aim is to maintain parity on the two articles on the town warrant so that people make a choice based on what they believe is best for the future of the town. Either option--repair or removal--will cost the town a lot of money. We have worked to include repair on the warrant because we believe the people of Bolton, and not the Conservation Commission, should make the choice for repair or removal of the dam. Long after the work has been done and paid for, the town will have to live with the results.