Ladder To Aid
in Restoration of
Alewife and Herring
NMFS Northeast Region
N E W SGLOUCESTER, MASS. -- A fish ladder that will aid the restoration of alewife and blueback herring to Massachusetts' Parker River is scheduled for installation tomorrow, according to federal officials. The custom-made structure, known as an Alaskan Steeppass fish ladder, will be dropped into place at the Main Street Dam in the town of Newbury.
"The new ladder enhances migratory access to over 10 miles of historic spawning habitat so we should see some improvement in the alwewife and blueback herring runs this coming spring and significant improvements in future years" said Eric Hutchins, a biologist with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service's Northeast Regional Office.
The Essex County Greenbelt Association is leading this project in cooperation with NOAA Fisheries Community-Based Restoration Program and the FishAmerica Foundation. Additional support for the project is being provided by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Essex County Sportsmen's Association, Parker River Clean Water Association, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society and is part of a larger effort to restore fish passage throughout the river. The Parker River, located in northeastern Massachusetts, is approximately 23 miles long and its watershed covers roughly 82 square miles in Essex County. The river runs through the towns of Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, and Newbury, where it empties into Plum Island Sound and the Gulf of Maine.
A number of anadromous fish species including alewife, blueback herring, rainbow smelt and white perch migrate to the Parker River. Beyond their own recreational fishing value, these fish also are important prey for bluefish, striped bass and other recreationally and commercially important fish species. However, the abundance of all of these species has declined from historic levels due to inadequate fish passage at dams and other obstructions. Only about 6,000 fish returned to the river in 1997, less than one fifth of the number that were observed in the 1970s.
The decline in numbers of fish returning to the Parker River system primarily has been attributed to the construction of six dams earlier this century. The dams prevented migratory fish from reaching spawning areas. Although five fishways were constructed during the 1930s and a sixth installed in the early 1960s, the condition of all six fishways deteriorated since the 1970s to the point where several are barely passable and the Main Street Dam is almost at the point of complete structural failure.
In addition to the fish ladder installation, NOAA officials also announced $18,000 in funding for a related project that will repair the Central Street fish ladder, also located on the Parker River in Newbury. The grant was awarded to the Essex County Sportsmen's Association through the NOAA Community-Based Restoration Program/Fish America Foundation partnership. According to officials, the Central Street project will significantly improve passage at this first critical blockage on the Parker River. Construction is expected in the summer of 2001.
A fact sheet on the restoration project is available.