Removing the Elm Street Dam: Everything You Want to Know

Part 1: Ecological Benefits | Part 2: Economic Benefits | Part 3: Everything Else

Part 3: Everything Else

Let’s tackle this with some Frequently Asked Questions:

I only recently heard about this project, how long have you been working on it?

JRWA has been working on this project for approximately ten years. In 2007, we began evaluating the dam for potential removal with state and federal partners. At that time it was more important to focus most of our attention on the removal of Wapping Road Dam, since it had no fish ladder and was a complete obstacle to fish. Removing the Elm Street Dam at that time would not have gained us much, since the fish would still be blocked just upstream. Once Wapping Road Dam was removed (in 2011) we were able to focus our efforts on both Elm Street Dam and Forge Pond Dam, by Silver Lake.

Isn’t the dam historic? Hasn’t it always been there?

This Jones River site is super historic. The concrete dam is not. Various dams have been at the site since colonial days. The mills and forges were critical to the success of the Town and the colony. We would like to see all these industries get the historic recognition they deserve. We plan to include signage and information at Sampson Park that really tells the story of the Jones River and how critical it was in terms of fisheries, industries, and water supply. As we approach 2020 and the 400-year anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing, it would be amazing to have the Jones River restored to the condition in which Mayflower Captain Christopher Jones first found the river that now bears his name.

Courtesy of the Kingston Public Library Local History Room

Pumping Station, old dam at site of Bradford mills, Elm Street (demolished 192?). (Photo by Emily Fuller Drew) – Courtesy of KPL/LHR

Wouldn’t it have been easier to remove the dam while the bridge was being replaced?

YES! Not only would it have been easier to remove the dam at that time, it would also have been easier to replace the bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge replacement involved some specific federal funds, timelines, and processes – adding a dam removal didn’t fit into that process. That’s all water under the bridge now (pun intended) and we are working around it.

Will the brand new Elm Street Bridge need to be rebuilt again? Will it be harmed by removing the dam?

No and no. While we weren’t able to incorporate dam removal into the bridge replacement, we were able to influence the bridge design. At our recommendation and request, the bridge was designed so that it would not be impacted by a future dam removal.

The bridge replacement was a nightmare, do we need to live through 3 more years of construction activity?

No. The physical removal of the concrete dam will take a few days. Additionally, there will be a few weeks of site work to grade the banks, deal with stormwater upgrades, etc. The total construction activities will take less than 6 weeks. In fact, there are several state and federal regulations that prohibit us from working in the river for any longer than that.

Elm Street Dam during 2013 construction.

Elm Street Dam during 2013 construction.

Really? This whole project will only last 6 weeks?

The whole project includes engineering designs, permitting, monitoring, etc. So, the WHOLE project could last 2-3 years – but the physical removal and site work will only be a few weeks.

Will the Water Department Building have to be demolished or abandoned?

No. The Water Department building was built as a separate structure, well before the current dam. In 1920, the current dam was built, and a backroom was added to the Water Department building at that time. The engineering designs for dam removal will address how to take out the dam without impacting the building. In fact, the building will benefit from not having water constantly pouring through it.

Courtesy of the Kingston Public Library Local History Room

Elm Street Dam being constructed in 1920. New Water Department foundation shown. (Photo by Edward Bird) – Courtesy of KPL/LHR

Will removing the dam cause flooding?

No. Elm Street Dam is NOT a flood control dam. The amount of water that comes downstream is the same amount that goes directly over the dam. Think of it as a full bathtub with the faucet still running. This was discussed in more detail in our first installment, check it out: Part 1: Ecological Benefits > Preventing Flooding →

Will the river dry up?

No. The water in the river is flowing downstream all the time. Right now it flows over the dam as it comes down the river. The same amount of water will continue to flow downstream.

What will happen to the pond?

It will go away and become a beautiful flowing river. This is the same transition that took place with the Wapping Road dam removal just upriver. If you want to know what it will look like, go see for yourself by visiting Triphammer Park on Wapping Road (Route 106).

The Wapping Road Dam was removed in 2012, restoring the river to a free-flowing condition.

The Wapping Road Dam was removed in 2012, restoring the river to a free-flowing condition.

What will happen to the fish in the pond?

Some fish will like it, others won’t. The Jones River is by nature a cold flowing coastal stream. That’s what it will become once again when the dam is removed. Native trout, smelt, shad, striped bass, river herring, eels, perch, and other fish will enjoy that. Small mouth bass and other pond fish like hot ponds, so they won’t be thrilled about having the Jones River be a river again.

Will the pond become a swampy mud pit?

For the first few weeks and months after removal (depending on the time of year) it will be pretty wet and mucky. Then the soil will drain and dry out and vegetation will take hold. Plants will reestablish quickly. Shrubs and trees will grow up. Within a few years, it will become forested like the rest of Sampson Park, or it will be managed in some other form that best suits the park and its users. This is all part of the design and planning process, which everyone should be involved in!

Doesn’t the mud have to be removed from the pond? Won’t that mean hundreds of muddy trucks driving around town?

Most of the sediment can probably stay in place. For the Wapping Road Dam removal, exactly ZERO trucks left the site with sediment. Instead, the project was well designed to reuse the sediment on the site as part of the bank building and grading. We expect that this will mostly be the case at Elm Street. The concrete from the dam will need to be trucked off-site. That will be a few truckloads. As mentioned earlier, this project will last less than 6 weeks. The number of trucks coming to and from the site will be for a very short duration. Then the dam will be gone forever. In terms of truck traffic, this focused project will be a blip compared to ongoing operations like sand and gravel business and other heavy truck traffic on Elm Street.

What about the observation deck in Sampson Park?

Right now it looks out over the pond. When the dam is removed, it won’t make for a very good observation deck anymore. The planning phase of the project will determine the best way to replace that view. Maybe a walkway to the river? Maybe a historic information kiosk? This needs input from the community during the planning process.

Where can we get more information about dam removals? Are there sites we can visit to get a sense of what it looks like?

A great place to start is the MA Division of Ecological Restoration’s webpage. National Geographic also ran a recent story about a Massachusetts dam removal: “A Favorite MA Stream Loses a Dam – and Gains Aquatic Habitat”.

The Town of Plymouth has recently removed more dams than any other town in the state. You can walk up Town Brook from the Plymouth waterfront and see several dam removal sites. These include sites that have fully grown in since work several years ago, to sites that were just completed last year and still have signs of construction. Plymouth has fully invested in dam removal as a way to remove ongoing infrastructure costs, while also attracting tourists who want to see what the Pilgrims found so beautiful 400 years ago. The fish have responded to this help and are doing their part to wow visitors. In April and May, hundreds of thousands of river herring can be seen heading up Town Brook to spawn. It’s time we help them back to Jones River, too.

What else?

Come to Kingston Town Meeting tomorrow, Saturday, June 11th and vote!

If you missed it, read Part 1: Ecological Benefits and Part 2: Economic Benefits on our website, and please continue to share your thoughts and questions with us! Call the Landing at (781) 585-2322, or email

*Thanks to the Kingston Public Library Local History Room for providing the historic images and associated information. Please note that publication of these images, including use on any website, requires prior written permission from KPL/LHR.

1 Comment

  1. Faith Fleming

    To whom it may concern,
    I’m relatively new to Kingson and recently bought a house down the street from the Jones River Landing building (I’m at 7 Maple St.) I am very interested in our waterways and the environment and was wondering exactly what your group does, meetings membership fee, etc. TIA for any info you can give me.

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