It’s the first time in at least 100 years that anyone has documented river herring bumping up against the Forge Pond Dam.
KINGSTON – It’s the first time in at least 100 years that anyone has documented river herring bumping up against the Forge Pond Dam.
While there have been reports of river herring at the dam at the entrance to Silver Lake since the fall of 2011 when the Wapping Road Dam was removed, those reports were not verified by the state Division of Marine Fisheries. They are now.
Jones River Watershed Association Ecology Program Director Alex Mansfield said volunteers counting the herring at the Elm Street Dam in late April reported that they are running in significant numbers, so he had to go take a look.
On the second day he checked, the fish were at the dam. They had made it through the culvert. The first day, he had placed a camera in the water at the other end of the culvert on site, and the footage showed a few dozen herring.
“It was incredible,” he said.
Mansfield said the journey for river herring includes the swim up the Jones River, up the ladder at the Elm Street Dam, through Sampson Park, along Wapping Road, under Route 106, under the railroad bridge, under Grove Street, through cranberry bogs and under Lake Street.
“It’s a gauntlet of things that they have to go through to get to right here,” he said. “It’s seven and a half miles, just the Jones River, never mind the bay and coming all the way up the coast. It’s probably a couple hundred miles up the coast to get to the river in the first place to end right here.”
In the past, herring were blocked from making this journey, and increasing flow out of Silver Lake could be deferred to another time. That used to be the case, he said, but restoration efforts have resulted in the presence of herring at the Forge Pond Dam.
This means advocating for more flow out of Silver Lake and less diversion from the city of Brockton, which owns the Forge Pond Dam. Mansfield said he believes they have the ammunition because it’s the law that the owners of dams in places where there are migratory fish are required to provide passage.
However, enforcement by the Division of Marine Fisheries can be difficult. At the same time, Marine Fisheries has designed a fish ladder and an operating plan for how to make the fish ladder work. The goal is to get them the final 1 percent of the way to Silver Lake.
Whether fish restoration is worth it, was a question. Mansfield said he believes that success in securing funding for dam removal at Wapping Road and Elm Street following a spawning habitat assessment by Marine Fisheries answers that question.
The typical life cycle of river herring involves swimming upstream until they get to the end of the road, spawning and leaving. If the end of the road were Silver Lake, they would spawn and leave, the eggs would hatch after a few weeks, the juveniles would hang out for the summer and leave in the fall, he said.
With Forge Pond Dam the end of the road, he expects they will get exasperated without the energy to swim against the dam and spawn at the base and leave. The eggs could hatch after a few weeks, or be eaten by bass, eels or small fish, and the same goes for juveniles.
An internal debate has been had about putting in a fish ladder or scooping up the fish and dumping them into Silver Lake, but in the fall, they could be stranded in Silver Lake, doomed forever.
“That’s the sad story for them and the sad story for everyone who has put in all this effort to restore the river, but on the flip side of that, it’s a very visual connection to what’s happening,” he said.
Mansfield said Kingston and Brockton have a long history when it comes to water. Brockton got the legislative rights in 1899 and started taking water out of Silver Lake around 1904, reducing the flow of the Jones River and having a ripple effect on Kingston’s water supply.
At that time, the purpose of the Elm Street Dam was to generate power to drive a pump to take water out of the well that’s near the dam and pump the well water up to a cistern on Indian Pond for Kingston’s water supply.
The water department lost its ability to pump water for Kingston’s water supply, so the town sued Brockton around 1917 and won. The present day Elm Street Dam was built in 1920 with money from the lawsuit. Efforts are now underway to remove the dam, and as Mansfield said, turn the clock back.
Follow Kathryn Gallerani on Twitter @kgallreporter.