Thursday, April 13, 2006

Omega Dam and the Ten Mile River to be Restored

Herring stacking up at Omega Dam may finally get the boost they need to get into the Ten Mile River by next year. A long-awaited feasibility study by the US Army Corps of Engineers is finally complete and calls for the installation of fishways at three key locations: Omega Dam, Hunts Mill Dam, and the Turner Reservoir.

The Corps, in partnership with Save The Bay, RIDEM, East Providence, the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, NRCS, and the RI Saltwater Anglers Association, is now moving forward with the design and specifications for the restoration of the Ten Mile. The project is expected to cost about $2 million, with 65% coming from Federal funds. Construction is expected to begin in 2007, but this is still contingent on finding state and local match.

The Ten Mile once supported large populations of blueback herring and alewives, but today nothing can pass its dams and restrictions without being manually transported. After the State of Rhode Island passed regulations prohibiting the taking and possession of river herring this spring, the Saltwater Anglers obtained a special permit to perform “dip-assist” transplantation of fish over Omega Dam until the fishway is built. Known as the “Human Fish Ladders”, these salty dogs like RISAA and Save The Bay member Paul Bettencourt are largely responsible for sustaining populations there for many generations.

It is a high priority for both Save The Bay and RISAA to make sure that this restoration gets funded and moves forward. Just as important is our collective commitment to maintaining public access and water quality improvements to this dusty jewel of Narragansett Bay. -JT

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