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We had a great turnout, both in-person and via Zoom, at last week’s Indian Head River Restoration Project Update. Project partners – the towns of Hanover, Hanson and Pembroke, and NSRWA – had engineering firms Interfluve and Horsely Witten present the results of the Feasibility Study, which looked at the potential impacts of removing Ludden’s Ford Dam and the State St. Dam. These are two public dams – Ludden’s Ford Dam is owned by the towns of Hanover and Pembroke, and State St. Dam is owned by Hanover and Hanson – and next steps will be determined by those town’s Select Boards. 

The NSRWA is strongly in favor of moving forward with removal of these two dams to restore the Indian Head River because we believe the best thing for a river to be… is a river. Free flowing rivers are one of the most endangered habitats on earth. Three hundred years ago, when these dams were originally built, industrialization, privatization and pollution of our river occurred without public input. Today we have an opportunity for public input on what our vision is for this river. The NSRWA’s vision is for the Indian Head River to be a self-sustaining, functional river ecosystem that is allowed to flow freely to the ocean, and to allow for species like river herring and American shad and, yes, even beavers, all whose populations have been diminished, to once again use the river freely.

We urge you to call and/or email your Select Board if you live in Hanover, Pembroke or Hanson and let them know you support moving forward with restoring the river and removing these dams. Use this link to show your support and we will send you more information on how to best support this project.

For those who were not able to attend last week’s Project Update, here is a re-cap of what we now know as a result of the Feasibility Study:

  • Dam removal is possible at both sites and won’t increase downstream flooding.
  • Dam removal will increase suitable habitat for herring, shad, eel and brook trout, reconnecting natural river habitats for native fish whose populations have declined significantly.
  • Dam removal will eliminate town liability and cost of ownership and maintenance.
  • Funding is available for dam removal and habitat restoration from state and federal grants. In this case, there is also potential funding through MassDEP’s Natural Resources Damages Trust Fund.
  • State St. Dam removal will be a less complicated project than Ludden’s Ford Dam largely due to contaminated sediments behind Ludden’s Ford Dam.
  • Recreational opportunities will change. At Ludden’s Ford Park, fishing in the “pond” behind the dam will evolve into fishing in moving water. Paddlers will have the ability to kayak, canoe or paddle down this entire stretch of the Indian Head River, and there will be no changes to the existing trails along the river. 
Indian Head RIver, Pembroke by Rob MacDonald

We also learned that the Feasibility Study did not have all of the answers and we are left with the following questions: 

  • How will the potential Superfund designation upstream at Factory Pond impact this project?
  • How long will these dams be able to withstand current and future climate conditions?
  • Exactly how much contaminated sediment will need to be removed behind Ludden’s Ford Dam?
  • What is the source of the contamination behind both of these dams? Fireworks Site upstream? Factories along the river?
  • How much will it cost to remove Ludden’s Ford Dam?

There was spirited discussion and overall support for these projects. Audience questions centered around the following topics:

  • Specific questions about the study, especially the sediment sampling plan
  • Impact of dam removals on fish and other wildlife upstream of the dams
  • Impact of dam removals on abutting properties and other water bodies in the system
  • Impact of dam removals on water levels in the Indian Head River
  • Levels of contamination found in the fish that use the Indian Head River

While there are still a number of unknowns, the towns will need to decide if they support removing these dams and pursuing river restoration as the vision for these sites. Once that happens, NSRWA can work with the towns to begin seeking additional funding to answer those questions. Use this link to show your support and we will send more information on how to best support this project.

Click here to watch the full presentation and slides.