by Abigail Archer, Cape Cod Conservation District
The new fish ladder and dam at Santuit Pond in Mashpee are complete!
Santuit Pond is a 166 acre pond surrounded by active and abandoned cranberry bogs in Mashpee, Massachusetts. It is also a spawning pond for river herring. Every spring, migrating adult river herring make the incredible journey from the deep ocean to Nantucket Sound to the Santuit River to reproduce. Their ultimate destination is Santuit Pond, but in past years they have encountered problems getting there.
The century-old dam that maintains the water level had been leaking and the wooden fish ladder was falling apart. Often the fish would congregate at the base of the dam instead of swimming into the aging fish ladder. Town employees and volunteers would then scoop them up in buckets and bring them to the pond.
Now, thanks to the Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project and the Town of Mashpee, the herring will reach their spawning grounds all by themselves. The river herring that arrive this spring will see a new dam with no leaks and will sense the water flow coming from a brand new 30 foot long concrete pool and weir fish ladder.
Fish ladders are needed when the difference in height between the top of the dam and the river is too high to overcome. River herring do not jump over obstacles like salmon do – they must swim over them. This ladder is designed as a series of pools that break that height difference into smaller more manageable steps. The pools are created by weirs – and this ladder has six of them.
The construction of the dam began in January 2013 and work was required to stop in March to allow the herring to migrate. Work resumed in June and was completed in August.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Cape Cod Conservation District, the Town of Mashpee and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe partnered with many people to plan for, design, permit and construct this project, and celebrated its completion with a ribbon cutting event on October 18th. Now, everyone is looking forward to welcoming the river herring next spring!
Watch the construction of the Santuit Pond dam and fish ladder evolve in this video slideshow: