Rhode Island's chapter of The Nature Conservancy is preparing to remove a 200-year-old dam from the Pawcatuck River to restore the ecosystem and protect local communities from flooding due to dam failure.
The six-foot-high, 200-foot-wide Bradford Dam will be replaced with a series of stone walls that have openings for fish to swim through.
Suzanne Paton, biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said the new structure will open the river for fish that live there year-round.
"They may have been trapped on one side or the other of the dam and now they can navigate further upstream or further downstream to explore to maybe find better areas for them to lay their eggs and spawn, or sometimes they’re looking for a certain water temperature," Paton said.
Paton said other benefits of the new structure include opening the river for migratory fish; adding more small fish to the food chain as more fish eggs are released throughout the river; eliminating the possibility of the dam failing during a major storm event; and improving paddling.
The project is expected to cost $1.8 million and is being supported by $821,000 in federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience projects.
The new structure is expected to be completed in December.