Wendell dam removal project a state priority

  • Bowen’s Pond on Wendell Depot Road in Wendell is a source of water for the fire department.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The dam at Bowen’s Pond on Wendell Depot Road in Wendell.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Water flows over the dam spillway at Bowen’s Pond on Wendell Depot Road in Wendell.  STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/13/2018 11:21:03 PM

WENDELL — A dam removal project that has been awarded state priority designation is also the subject of abutters’ efforts to keep that work from being done because of what they say would be serious detrimental effects to the environment.

Designation by the state department of Fish and Game of the “Osgood Brook Restoration-Bowen’s Pond Dam Removal” project as one of 12 wetland restoration projects eligible for technical services and grants came in a written statement, and said that as a result, “wild Eastern brook trout and other species threatened by the effects of climate change will benefit.”

But the two abutters, University of Massachusetts biology professors Adam Porter and Elizabeth Jakob, told the Selectboard last month that the privately-owned pond off Wendell Depot Road serves as an “ecological corridor,” connecting Wendell State Forest and Massachusetts Audubon Society’s largest property, the 2,600-acre Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary.

The habitat it creates is important, not only for wetland species, including otters, wetland ducks and migratory birds, but for preventing the spread of invasive plants like glossy buckthorn, if the pond is allowed to dry out, they said.

The dam is listed by the state Office of Dam Safety as being in fair condition and low risk, because there is little population and little development downstream if it fails — and unlike a dam that prevents fish migration and movement of critters in the stream, it creates an ecosystem that’s evolved over the 100 or so years since being built.

Tom Robinson of Hubbardston, whose family owns the more than 200 acres along with the property on which it sits, has approached Mass Audubon about conveying the property to the organization without the house that is also there, but Kate Buttolph, an Audubon land conservation specialist who also attended the session , acknowledged “the dam presents some issues.”

She said that while the state’s priority designation can include data collection, engineering, design work, permitting, project management and grants through the Division of Ecological Restoration, it doesn’t automatically include funding for removing the old millpond.

The state agency works with dam owners to assess the needs of each project, determine which funding programs might be appropriate and map out a funding strategy.

Selectboard member Daniel Keller said his board “found the arguments very compelling” in favor of keeping the dam “to help preserve a 100-year-old pond that supports the ecosystem, and while it has no direct control over the issue, the town Conservation Commission needs to be consulted, since it has control over wetlands.”

“And, this certainly is a wetland,” he added.


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