[SOURCE: EcoRI News]

By ecoRI News staff

BRADFORD, R.I. — Work crews recently began carving a temporary bypass channel around the Bradford Dam on the Pawcatuck River in preparation for the structure’s removal next month. The dam will be replaced with a more natural step-pool design, allowing more fish to swim upriver to their traditional breeding grounds and eliminating the risk of flooding from a catastrophic dam failure.

Bradford Dam is a 6-foot-high, 200-foot-wide structure built in the mid-1800s to support a riverbank mill. The mill has been idle for many years, and the dam has since fallen into disrepair, losing chunks of rock downstream in several recent major storms. In its current state, the dam restricts the movement of migratory and resident fish and is at risk of failing and causing a major flood during another powerful storm, according to the Rhode Island chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

The dam’s removal is part of an effort to open up the 31-mile-long Pawcatuck River and associated wetlands for migrating American shad, alewife, blueback herring, American eel and sea-run trout. Removal of the dam will improve connectivity for all of these species, many of which have historic breeding grounds that lie farther upstream, according to TNC.

The step-pool design will also include a 10-foot-wide channel allowing canoes and kayaks to pass easily through the area. It will eliminate an onerous portage for paddlers almost immediately downstream of the popular boat launch at Bradford Landing.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Northeast regional director Wendi Weber said the removal of the Bradford Dam will reduce local flooding and eliminate the risk of dam failure in future storms….