Restoring the Ipswich River

Growing up on the river, it was very much
a natural resource. People use for it their livelihoods, digging clams, for
recreation, for fishing and boating. It was very much a use based resource.
It’s something that really connects people and in lots of ways everything
from your drinking water to, here in Ipswich, in particular, the economy. We’re here at the mouth of the river and Ipswich back in the early 1600s was the
second largest community in the United States if you could believe that and the
reason it was settled was because of the fisheries resources.The town’s original
name Agawam is a native term for places where fishes of passage resorted. If we
can get the fish back that means we have a really healthy system and with things
like dam removal and restocking we’re really hopeful to restore that former glory.
Our River restoration program has for a number of years focused on improving the
rivers function and habitat connections throughout the watershed. So we are
hoping to better connect the river for the fish and wildlife that live in it
and also restore some of the river function in the river processes that
make that such a good place for those things to live. One of the main things
that I’ve been working on for the past few years is trying to improve habitat
connection and flow through structures on the river so the things we’re looking
at our dams and bridges and culverts. So removing man-made ponds along the river
allows fish and other aquatic wildlife to move up and down to places they need
to be at certain times of the year or during certain river conditions. Dams on
the river block the movement of creatures that are naturally supposed to
be able to move back and forth in those sections. They also trap pollutants and
such. We’ve been working closely with the folks at Bostik and other
partners, state federal and local partners, to first investigate the
feasibility and now working to remove the dam. As an owner of the dam I think
you know removal is the best option. This is an aging dam it’s been here for
possibly a hundred years and owning dams requires upkeep and we’re at a point now
where we’re gonna have to invest some significant money in the dam and the dam
serves no purpose to Bostik. No one I’ve ever talked to has ever seen any of the
uses of damming up the river, there is a raceway off to the side that I can
imagine had paddle mills at one point and that still exists on-site but we’ve
never used the power of the river here and don’t know anyone that has. We hope
that in removing that dam we will reduce flooding risk for the folks immediately
upstream, reduce the risk during a failure of the road and the people that
live downstream, and also open up fishing, open up recreational opportunities. So we
see it as a big community benefit along with the wildlife and ecosystem benefits
that would come with it. I think it’s gonna benefit the community and I I
think it’s gonna be much more scenic river and it’s pretty exciting to think
about a river running through that people can pass through on kayaks or you
know fishing, shallow bubbling brook I think that’s just a nice thing to
imagine. The sooner that we can get rid of the Bostik Dam the better. The
Ipswich Mills Dam, which is at such a critically important location on the
Ipswich river right at the head of the tide I’m hoping that in the future we’ll
see the removal of that dam too. When I think about restoration and resilience
I’m thinking about how to remove constraints that we’ve put there and
allow the ecosystem and the wildlife to do what it does best which is adapt. Water is the most important resource in our lives and in our society and people
often take it for granted. Without the Ipswich River we would have no
communities, we’d have no business, we’d have no economy, so it’s our goal and
hope that the Ipswich River can continue to provide that lifeblood of our
communities for centuries to come. To highlight some of the successes, the
salt marsh and the water quality here is so much better than it was. There are
signs that the ecology of the region can recover if we can devote ourselves to
helping it do that to putting efforts into restoration. That will benefit not
only the ecology of the region but it will benefit us. Just example of that
point, right behind us was closed to shell fishing for over a century and just this
year alone a million dollars worth of clams will be harvested right behind us.
So we’re really excited we can’t wait for it to happen.

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