A federal grant of about $864,000 has given new life to a seven-year-old plan to demolish two dams on the Shawsheen River, creating improved habitat for migrating fish and potentially making life safer for people living along the river.
The Coastal Resiliency Grant announced late last month comes from the U.S. Department of Interior and will be administered through the Mass. Department of Fish and Game.
“We were excited to learn that the Coastal Resiliency Grant had been awarded,” Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski said. “The restoration and removal of two dams on the Shawsheen River has been a goal for the town for many years and we are excited to begin the process.”
On June 23, Gov. Deval Patrick announced that the Interior Department had approved $4.74 million in “coastal resilience funding ... for dam removal and shoreline protection projects” in Massachusetts.
According to a press release, “the grant funds will support the removal of the Balmoral Dam and the Stevens Street Dam, the first and second dams from the ocean on the Shawsheen River. Both dams are aging and removing the dams will eliminate a safety hazard and open up habitat for migratory and resident fish.”
The organizations that applied for the grant said a third dam at Ballardvale should also be removed, but that the owners don’t want it taken down. For now, the Ballardvale dam removal is on hold.
Tom Ardito, director of the Center for Ecosystem Restoration, a Rhode Island nonprofit that has spearheaded the dam removal effort, said his organization, along with the state division of Fisheries and Wildlife, submitted the grant request. He said the federal government cut about 10 percent from the original request.
“The grant was less than the request,” he said. “We may have to do some more fundraising. But we are full speed ahead to take these dams down in 2015.”