BOSTON - A Worthington road closed for five years due to an October 2003 flood reopened this week thanks to a multi-partner brook restoration effort led by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Riverways Program. In addition to repairing flood damage to Dingle Road, the restoration team replaced a culvert beneath the road with a “fish-friendly” passage that restored fish and wildlife movement in Bronson Brook.
Soon after the 2003 flood - which left a ten-foot rift alongside the old culvert, volunteers led by Riverways, the Westfield River Watershed Association, and The Nature Conservancy performed an assessment of culverts that prevent fish and wildlife movement in rivers and streams throughout the region, finding the Dingle Road culvert to be a leading culprit. The volunteer assessments helped spur a collaborative restoration effort to install an innovative, fish-friendly culvert that allows full fish and wildlife passage underneath Dingle Road.
“We originally thought that repairing the culvert would cost the town half a million dollars, which was really not feasible for our small town budget,” said Evan Johnson, Worthington Selectboard member. “Because we were interested in improving habitat in Bronson Brook at the same time, we were able to qualify for grants that wouldn’t normally go toward roadway projects. The Riverways Program really guided us through the process. Without them, this project could not have been done.”
“This is a win-win project for the town and for fish and wildlife, proving once again that environmental restoration also makes economic sense,” Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles said.
With a total cost of $245,000 to engineer and construct the fish-friendly culvert, the project cost less than half of the $500,000 originally estimated for a traditional culvert. Additionally, because the project was primarily funded through environmental grants, the cost to the town of Worthington was approximately $40,000 in Public Works Department services. The Massachusetts Riverways Program contributed $130,211 in capital funds to the project.
“Even before the road failure, the previous culvert was harmful to fish and wildlife,” said Brian Graber, a scientist with American Rivers. “It was suspended above the brook on the downstream end, and the inside of the culvert had less than an inch of water depth, completely blocking fish from moving upstream. The project team installed a new fish-friendly culvert that is wider than the brook and is bottomless, allowing fish and wildlife to move through the site as if the road were not even there.”
DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin added, “The Dingle Road project truly is a pilot project and we hope that other towns can follow the lead of the town of Worthington. Climate change threatens the integrity of our rivers and streams. By eliminating barriers and improving access to headwaters, cold water fish like salmon and trout can better adapt to stresses brought about by climate change.”
The opening of Dingle Road is the culmination of a multi-year initiative to restore Bronson Brook, a high quality cold water stream that flows to the wild and scenic Westfield River. Spearheaded by the Riverways Program, the restoration also included retrofitting a culvert at Cummington Road for fish passage and installing large pieces of wood in the water along the brook to improve habitat for Atlantic salmon and trout. The overall Bronson Brook restoration project cost just under $500,000 and was supported by private, local, state and federal grants and technical assistance. Funders included the town of Worthington, Massachusetts Riverways Program, Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Connecticut River Watershed Council, and American Rivers. Other partners included the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westfield River Wild & Scenic Advisory Committee, Westfield River Watershed Association, and The Nature Conservancy.
Each year, volunteers stock hundreds of salmon fry in Bronson Brook as part of the Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program. Historically, Atlantic salmon habitat extended upstream of Dingle Road, but had been blocked by the culvert. Adult brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout are also stocked at each of the culverts.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.