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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
DATE: August 23, 2010

CONTACT:
Deborah Loiselle, 603 271-8870
Jim Martin, 603 271-3710

Homestead Woolen Mill Dam Removal Project Starts August 23

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services announced today that after 12 years of planning, work on the removal of the Homestead Woolen Mill Dam is scheduled to begin today. The dam, located on the Ashuelot River in Swanzey, New Hampshire, is immediately downstream from the historic Thompson Covered Bridge, which is being stabilized in conjunction with the removal of the dam. The projects are linked because of the potential impacts that removal of the dam could have on the abutments and pier that support the bridge.

The timber crib dam has been in disrepair for several years. The high cost to repair the dam, coupled with the desire to restore the free-flowing river, prompted the dam owner, Homestead Woolen Mill, Inc., to work with the River Restoration Program at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) to pursue removal as an option for meeting dam safety requirements. The process of evaluating the feasibility of dam removal and its alternatives, as well as securing the permits and developing the final plans for the project, has been complicated, but the project is now ready to begin. “River restoration projects have to take into consideration the impact on historic resources. At the same time, these projects have tremendous environmental and natural habitat benefits,” said DES Commissioner Tom Burack. “This project is only able to move forward because we have the tremendous cooperation of many stakeholders and the sponsorship of natural resource advocates. We’re proud to be part of the team.”

The Town of Swanzey has been a critical partner in this project since its inception. Beth Fox, Town Administrator for Swanzey, said residents identify with the dam as part of the town’s heritage and highlighted that this stretch of the Ashuelot River is an important part of the community. “Both the bridge stabilization and dam removal projects are complex in and of themselves, but they are also connected because of their close proximity along the river. All of the project partners have put in a tremendous effort to work together to sustain the unique historic and natural resources that are so much a part of the Town of Swanzey, and we are really appreciative of that,” Fox said.

DES has been working with Homestead Woolen Mill, Inc., for several years helping to secure funding and providing technical assistance. The consultant for the project is Vanesse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., of Bedford. The approximately $500,00 project is being funded by three separate programs within of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Open Rivers Initiative in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NH Fish & Game, FishAmerica Foundation, NH Corporate Wetland Restoration Partnership, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, and The Nature Conservancy. The New Hampshire Chapter of The Nature Conservancy made possible contributions from the Davis Conservation Foundation and a local family foundation, as well as matching funding from the Conservancy’s Connecticut River Program.

State and federal biologists, with the assistance of trained volunteers, are working to relocate mussels that would be stranded by low water levels during construction. Included in this effort is the dwarf wedge mussel, a federally listed endangered species. The biologists are working to relocate them prior to construction, but the river restoration will enhance the habitat of the mussels and other aquatic life. In addition, a group from Dartmouth College, lead by Professor Francis Magilligan, has secured independent funding to monitor the project, which will provide valuable information on the physical changes to the river after the dam is removed.

For more information about this project, please contact, Deb Loiselle, DES River Restoration Coordinator at 603 271-8870.

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