Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pawtuxet Falls Dam Removal Project Update

To learn more about the Pawtuxet River
Watershed, click here.
The Pawtuxet River is the second largest source of fresh water to the Narragansett Bay. The Pawtuxet River watershed is the largest watershed in the state. It comprises the Scituate Reservoir and its tributaries, the North Branch of the Pawtuxet, the Pocasset River, the Big River and its tributaries, the Flat River Reservoir and its tributaries -- the South Branch of the Pawtuxet, and the main stem of the Pawtuxet. In total, the watershed contains 64 ponds, 93 brooks, 7 tributary rivers, and 18 dams.
The first dam on the river, Pawtuxet Falls, is located at the mouth of Pawtuxet Cove. The concrete dam you see today was constructed in 1924 by the Providence Water Supply Board. The concrete structure replaced the previous wooden structure and was built at the same time Scituate Reservoir was being constructed in the upper watershed. The Scituate Reservoir currently supplies drinking water to nearly two-thirds of the state's population.
With the second largest volume of water in Rhode Island and a substantial drop in elevation from its headwaters to Narragansett Bay, the Pawtuxet River watershed became a center of textile manufacturing plants. Numerous impoundments were created along the river and its tributaries, and along the banks were a series of mills and mill villages, many of which now have historical significance. In the late 19th century, this development was so intensive that an urban area emerged in the eastern Coventry-West Warwick area. Factories and villages both discharged their effluent and waste in the river, degrading water quality in the lower portions of the watershed.
Click here to download a flyer
about the project and meeting
With poor water quality and dams peppering the river, migrating fish such as river herring, American shad and Atlantic salmon could not reach their fresh water spawning grounds. But there is a light at the end of the story! The Pawtuxet River Authority and its partners are working to remove portions of the concrete dam at Pawtuxet Falls, which will open seven and a half miles of river to migrating fish.
On June 21st at 7pm, the Pawtuxet River Authority will host a public meeting at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet to update stakeholders on the progress of the dam removal project. Although construction has not yet begun, permits and contracting are underway. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the public meeting. 

If you would like to be added to the stakeholder mailing list so you can receive information about future meetings and updates on construction progress contact Lesley Lambert at lesley@nbep.org.

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