Friday, August 19, 2011

Surveying the Holway Axe Dam at Carter Beal Park in Bourne

Dan Barnett and Abigail Franklin surveying the Holway Axe Dam in a dingy.

By Abigail Franklin, Anadromous Fish Restoration Project Manager

One of our recent field work assignments was to survey the upstream side of the Holway Axe Dam, at Carter Beal Park in the Town of Bourne.  We were gathering information for a new fish ladder that will be built at the site. 

Great Herring Pond at Carter Beal Park, Bourne.
Holway Axe Dam has two spillways, and only one of them has a fish ladder. During the Spring upstream migration, adult herring will sometimes swim up the incorrect spillway, and become stuck at the bottom of the dam.  These fish then need to be netted and dropped into the pond above.  This is stressful and time consuming for both the herring and humans involved! 

To fix this problem, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is designing a channel and fish ladder that will allow the herring to swim from the spillway with no passage, into the spillway with a fish ladder. Before plans are drawn, we have to survey the dam and determine how strong it is.  The stronger the dam – the closer we can locate the new fish ladder to it.

Nancy Sheard gets ready to set up surveying equipment.

Civil Engineering Technician Nancy Sheard arrived at the site before us, and found thousands of juvenile herring swimming in a tight circle in one of the pools of the pool and weir fish ladder.  These two-inch long fish were born in Great Herring Pond, and were taking their time swimming downstream to the ocean for the first time!

After watching the fish for a few minutes, Civil Engineer Dan Barnett and I hopped into an eight-foot long dingy, and Nancy set up the surveying equipment on the far shore.  Dan rowed transects back and forth along the dam, while I tried to hold the surveying rod in place as the wind pushed us around.  It was a hot day, but a very pleasant place to be.

Watch a video clip of the juvenile fish swimming at Carter Beal Park:


  1. Please continue this great work and I look forward to more of your awesome blog posts.