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River herring to get help with swimming upstream in Weymouth

By Ed Baker
[email protected]

WEYMOUTH -- An eroding steel flood control gate at the herring run channel in Jackson Square has caused some alewives to get stuck while migrating to Whitman’s Pond, but the construction of a new concrete barrier should remedy this problem, according to town officials.

Mayor Robert Hedlund said the deteriorating gate has been a problem “for decades.”

“When I came into office, we made replacing that gate a priority on our capital improvement plan,” he said.

The crumbling gate and a collapsed board in a nearby flood control tunnel caused nearly 10,000 alewives to get sidetracked into the conduit and die from a lack of oxygen in May 2010.

Weymouth Herring Warden George Loring said the repairs to the gate over the years were a “Band-Aid approach.”

“I’ve been involved with the herring run for 32 years, and the gate has been a problem since I started,” he said. “We tried all sorts of things to keep the herring from the going up the flood control tunnel.”

Loring said some alewives managed to slip through the openings in the metal gate last month and get stuck while migrating to Whitman’s.

“With this new structure t we won’t have to worry again,” he said. “I say that with trepidation.”

Loring said the new wall would include a sluice gate to allow water from the flood control tunnel to flow over the barrier and direct the alewives away from the conduit.

“The smell of Whitman’s Pond water that comes out of the flood control tunnel is strong,” he said. “The water smell will be dissipated over 40 to 50 feet, and they won’t have the desire to go in the direction of the flood control tunnel. They will instead go in the direction of the wooden fishing ladders, which is where we want them to go.”

The upgrades will include smoothing the ground in the channel near a concrete pad to help the alewives spawn.

“Thanks to the efforts of the (town) engineering division and funding assistance from the state, we will be able to improve the herring’s habitat and ability to swim upstream to Whitman’s Pond as well as make repairs to the surrounding channel for smelt spawning,” Hedlund said in a written statement.

The project will cost $650,000 to complete, and the financing includes $350,000 from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

Additional funding includes $300,000 from the town’s “free cash” or undesignated fund.

State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, said the upgrades would “ultimately preserve and improve the herring run’s habitat.”

“Oftentimes, the hard work is done behind the scenes,” he said in a written statement. “I’m proud to have partnered with the Town of Weymouth and my colleagues at the state level to have secured funding over the years for this project. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished result in just a few months.”

State Rep. James Murphy, D-Weymouth, said it’s vital to preserve and protect the herring run.

“The Weymouth Herring Run is one of the biggest in the state and is an important part of our ecosystem,” he said in a written statement. “It has served as one of the centerpieces of our community. All must be done to preserve and protect it, and I look forward to the completion of this very important project.”

The upgrades are scheduled to begin near the end of the month and be finished by late September, according to town officials.

The department of public work’s engineering division is managing the project, and Sum Co Eco-Contracting is responsible for completing the upgrades.

Gomez and Sullivan Engineers are completing designs for the improvements, DPC, a Utica, New York-based firm.


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