Manchester, NH — The City of Manchester is taking an important step toward fostering a more resilient community this week as construction begins on the removal of the Maxwell Pond Dam on Black Brook. Reporters are invited to view the removal of the spillway and talk to dam removal experts on Monday, March 2 (details are at the end of this release.)
Faced with an aging dam that was exacerbating local flooding and threatening critical infrastructure, City leaders joined forces with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and an array of partners to craft a comprehensive restoration project that will not only eliminate a safety hazard but will also restore more than seven miles of habitat for migratory fish and improve water quality in Black Brook. State scientists expect that the improvement will allow Black Brook, a tributary of the Merrimack River, to be removed from New Hampshire’s 303(d) list of impaired waters. Maxwell Pond is currently on the list because it does not adequately support diverse aquatic life due to its low level of dissolved oxygen, which aquatic life needs to survive.
Formerly owned by A.H. Maxwell of the Manchester Coal & Ice Company, the impoundment was once the source of what some considered the purest ice in Manchester. Unfortunately, over time this once thriving stream has become a degraded, stagnant impoundment that supports only a few warm water fish species. “Removing the Maxwell Pond Dam will allow Black Brook to flow swifter and cleaner, greatly improving habitat for alewife, American eel, blueback herring, Atlantic salmon, and other migratory fish native to this area,” said Eric Hutchins of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Restoration Center.
The dam also aggravated flooding. During past flood events, water has risen over the dam and flooded Front Street. As a result, several local businesses were forced to shut down and suffer losses. Flooding at this site has also threatened to undermine the busy Front Street Bridge. “The situation at the Maxwell Pond Dam had the potential to become quite dire as each flood also threatened the stability of a gas main spanning the channel,” said Jim Gallagher, Chief of the Dam Bureau for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. “Thankfully, National Grid went above and beyond to relocate the gas main as part of this project, ensuring greater security for this vital component of Manchester’s infrastructure.”
The decision to remove the dam is about more than making Black Brook and Manchester safer. The surrounding community will also benefit in other ways. “By removing this dam, we are breathing new life back into Black Brook and Blodgett Park,” said Chuck Deprima, Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Manchester. As part of the restoration project, the city of Manchester plans a major revitalization of the surrounding park, adding an educational kiosk and refurbishing the trail system. “This project will provide better access for fishing and kayaking and help reconnect people to the outdoors. Soon, a healthy Black Brook will be a source of pride for the community,” added Deprima. Click here to learn more about Manchester’s work on this project.
Manchester is not the only community facing the challenges presented by aging infrastructure. By 2020 more than 85 percent of our nation’s dams will be older than 50 years of age, their average life expectancy. Communities across New Hampshire and the country are realizing the multiple benefits—improved water quality, revitalized fisheries, new recreational opportunities, increased real estate values, and recovered land suitable for parks and other public use—in removing obsolete dams and restoring natural river function.
“When we tear down old infrastructure like obsolete dams, we build up our natural infrastructure the streams, wetlands and floodplains that give our communities essential services like clean water, flood protection, and other economic benefits,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.
This project would not have been possible without the multitude of partners that provided both financial and technical assistance. Project partners include the City of Manchester, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (NHF&G), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the New Hampshire State Conservation Committee, the New Hampshire Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, American Rivers, the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Trout Unlimited, Manchester Fly Fishing Club, Amoskeag Fishways, Fairpoint Communications, National Grid, Aggregate Industries, and Dubois and King, Inc.
Construction is expected to last for three to four weeks and is being led by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Dam Maintenance Section. If you are interested in seeing a major part of the construction, the removal of the spillway, on Monday, March 2, you can visit the site between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm. Parking is available at the E.W. Poore Frame Shop and Art Gallery located across the street from the project site at 531 Front Street. Vehicles should not be parked on the west side of Front Street adjacent to the project area for safety reasons. Stephen Landry, Merrimack Watershed Supervisor for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services; Chuck Deprima, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Manchester; and Serena McClain, Associate Director of River Restoration Programs at American Rivers, will all be on site to answer questions. For more details, please contact one of the experts listed above.
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.