In last week’s column I mentioned that Tim Purinton, Director of the MA Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) will be guest speaker at today’s Berkshire Hatchery Foundation Lobster Fest. I mentioned that because of the DER’s excellent work, it deserves more coverage in this column.
Massachusetts has more than 10,000 miles of river, but unfortunately, many suffer from over-allocation of water, polluted runoff during rain, and habitat fragmentation. In many cities and towns, rivers are separated from residents and businesses by concrete walls, fences, and buildings.
The mission of the DER is to restore and protect the Commonwealth’s rivers, wetlands and watersheds for the benefit of people and the environment. It focuses on revitalizing urban rivers and undoing the effects of more than 3000 dams and 40,000 culverts.
Thanks in part to the DER, Massachusetts is leading the Northeast in river restoration efforts. It maintains a strong focus on dam removal, as well as other innovative techniques to heal rivers and streams at a larger, system-level, not only to benefit of fish, but to restore dozens of ecological processes that define river health.
Physical restoration techniques such as culvert and bridge replacement, stream naturalization, and dam removal are designed and implemented to maximize restoration benefits for aquatic habitat while minimizing negative impacts to infrastructure, cultural resources, and the built environment. Many streams, especially in eastern Massachusetts, are subject to excessive water withdrawals and other manipulations of the natural hydrologic regime. Restoring natural stream flow through impoundment management, water conservation, and infrastructure planning are techniques that can be used to improve aquatic ecosystem functions.
Working in partnership with public, private, and non-governmental organizations, DER has completed over 100 restoration projects, restoring over 1,000 acres of tidal wetlands and miles of rivers and freshwater habitats. The number of its active projects in development at any given time typically exceeds 50.
Dams block fish and wildlife, degrade water quality, and stop the flow of water, sediment, and organic material. Undersized and inappropriately place culverts block fish and wildlife. Both cause public safety risks as they degrade and eventually fail catastrophically. DER works with dam owners to remove unwanted dams and with cities, towns, and the state to replace undersized culverts. DER also works with communities to improve water quality and stream habitat in urban settings.
It works on twenty to thirty dam removal and three to five culvert projects at any given time. Locally, some past projects included removal of two dams on Yokum Brook in Becket, the Briggsville Dam on the North Branch of the Hoosic River in Clarksburg, the Stroud Dam on Kinne Brook in Chester and the installation of a new culvert on Thunder Brook in Cheshire. It is involved with the Hoosic River Revival in North Adams, Pecks Brook in Pittsfield and is working with partners to improve stream flow below recreational dams in Pittsfield and Stockbridge.
DER is working with the Housatonic Valley Association, the Town of Pittsfield, and lake associations to assess adjustments to drawdown management that consider both downstream flow regimes and lake user needs. Pittsfield is piloting an alternative approach at Onota Lake/Pecks Brook.
Future local projects involve the removal of the Tel-Electric (a.k.a. Mill Street) Dam, located on the West Branch of the Housatonic River in downtown Pittsfield. The removal of the dam is part of a larger effort by the City of Pittsfield to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood.
Another future project involves the removal of the Columbia Mill Dam, located on the Housatonic River in Lee. Removal of that structure, and potential remediation of impounded sediments, will help to improve water quality, restore upstream fish passage, address risks posed by aging infrastructure, and improve local recreational opportunities.
I have barely scratched the surface of the wonderful projects in which the DER is involved, the employment benefits, how its leverages state dollars, the various important awards received and how restorations generate substantial economic value by improving ecosystem services. Click onto http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/der/ to learn more about it. *****
All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course. This course is designed for first-time hunters and is standardized across North America.
There will be a Basic Hunter Education Course taught at the Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, on the following dates: September 8, 10, 15, 17, 22 and 24 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. Participants must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course. To enroll, call (508)389-7830. *****
Trapper education is mandatory for all first-time trappers and Problem Animal Control (PAC) Agents. MassWildlife has announced the following Trapper Education courses: At the US Fish & Wildlife Service office in Hadley September 9 and 19 and at the same place on September 10 and 20. Courses will also be held at the Auburn Sportsman’s club in Auburn on September 2 and 12 and on October 7 and 17. Course information can be found online at http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/education-events/hed/trapper-education-courses.html.
If you are interested in any of these courses, call 508-389-7830 immediately to enroll; classes are filled first-come, first-served, and enrollment cannot be processed via email. *****
The Berkshire Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has announced that after a 3 year hiatus, it will begin having its annual banquets. This year’s banquet will be held at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club on Sunday, September 13 with doors opening at noon and dinner served at 1:00 PM. The cost is $65 per person which includes the meal and a one year membership along with a year’s subscription to Turkey Call magazine. Chris Puntin of Becket will be heading it up and is looking for volunteers to join the committee to help with the banquet and other events. Contact information is: 413-464-4036 or cpuntin1218@gmail. Com. *****