Historically, the Coonamessett River in the eastern Massachusetts’ East Falmouth has been a drainage connecting salt water to fresh water and providing passage to millions of fish; including alewife and blueback herring, brook trout and American eels. Overtime, however, the river has been diverted, dammed, and turned into irrigation for cranberry farms resulting in drastic fish population declines.
Fortunately for many native species seeking refuge in the waters of the Coonamessett River, there will soon be a large scale restoration project to remove a series of dams and restore the watershed to its former glory. The project is scheduled to begin in February of 2017 and is projected to be completed by 2019.
“It’ll be a legacy that all of us involved can leave for future generations to come in Falmouth,” said Elizabeth H. Gladfelter of the Falmouth Conservation Commission, lead coordinator for the Coonamessett River restoration project.
The new layout will be achieved by blocking off some channels where the river runs straight. In other places, engineers will pile large woody debris, a total of 250 logs with root systems intact, along the river to create barriers to water flow. The woody debris is designed such that as water flows rapidly around the wooded barriers, it will simultaneously create and protect shady inner pools for fish to avoid predators such as ospreys.
Additionally, portions of the river will be dredged to deepen the river bed and remove sand built up from cranberry bog farming over the decades.