Hathaway Pond Dam & Fish Ladder

A lot of water has gone over the Hathaway Pond Dam since the Buzzards Bay Coalition (BBC) acquired the Hampson property in 2011 in Rochester where the dam is located. At that time, their plan was to remove the dam and restore the area to its natural state as it was before the dam was built in 1804, hence lowering the pond area to a stream bed.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Office of Dam Safety (ODS) had previously classified the dam as in an unsafe condition and a potential threat to life and/or property downstream. To resolve the unsafe conditions, several options were proposed in the Hathaway Pond Dam Feasibility Study prepared by Inter-fluve Inc. for BBC. Those options were: (1) complete restoration of the dam; (2) a partial restoration of the dam; and (3) removal of the dam and earthen berm with construction of a pedestrian bridge. Estimates ranged from approximately $650,000 to $227,000 respectively. BBC’s choice was for complete removal of the dam.

That proposal was met head on with resistance from property owners on the pond, agricultural interests that depended on the water resource for maintaining ground water levels, irrigation, frost control and harvesting cranberries and Alewives Anonymous, Inc. that viewed Hathaway Pond as the primary spawning area for herring in the Sippican River as the recently installed ladder at Leonard’s Pond had not yet proven effective for fish passage into the pond.

Efforts were started to ‘Save Hathaway Pond’. Greenwood ‘Woody’ Hartley III began circulating a petition seeking signatures of the landowners, farmers, environmentalists, taxpayers and citizens of Rochester, Marion and the surrounding towns that wanted the dam at Hathaway Pond to remain and be repaired as the pond and its surrounding ecosystem provided a healthy and important environment to the citizens and wildlife of the area. Approximately 450 signatures were gathered. Representative Bill Strauss, speaking at a public meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission, pointed out both the historical significance and socio-economic issues associated with preserving the dam and pond, supporting the neighborhood, local farmers and AA.

Also the issue of the ‘Unsafe’ classification of the dam was brought forward to be reevaluated. Hartley-Rhodes, Inc. contracted with GeoEnvironmental, Inc. (GZA) to perform a study of the Sippican River watershed. GZA compiled and released the Hazard Classification Assessment of Hathaway Pond Dam and pointed out in their findings that the impact of the dam’s failure, even during the most unusual weather events, would be minimal. Their opinion was that ODS should consider downgrading the hazard/unsafe classification of Hathaway Pond Dam to ‘Low Hazard’. With that report and the recommendation, Hartley-Rhodes submitted an Application to Change Hazard Classification to ODS.

The Office of Dam Safety determined that it would change the classification of the dam to Low Hazard in December 2011. In February 2012, ODS additionally ruled that the dam property is indeed ‘land in agricultural use’ and exempt from their rules and regulations.

Beaton’s Inc. received deeded water rights to the pond along with authority to maintain and repair the dam for agricultural purposes when they purchased the Hiller cranberry property.

Negotiations between Beaton’s Inc. and BBC were initiated to reach an amicable agreement. The eventual outcome was that ownership of the dam property would be transferred to Beaton’s Inc. and also, among other things, improved fish passage would be incorporated into the dam.

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries provided a section of aluminum Alaskan steep pass fish ladder.

Doug Beaton contracted with EA Engineering, Science, and Technology from Warwick, RI, to design plans for the new fish ladder to be installed in one of the spillways of the dam. Other dam maintenance and improvements were also planned.

The framework and supporting structure for the ladder were fabricated at Beaton Inc’s workshop.

AA established the Hathaway Pond Dam Ladder Fund to help offset expenses of the new ladder. The AA members, the many supporters of the ‘Save Hathaway Pond’ campaign, the environmentally-minded citizens of Rochester, as well as those from our surrounding communities and local business, responded with a financial commitment to help the project along.

The required hearings were held and permits from the Rochester Conservation Commission were granted in early 2013 and construction was started in March. Part of the installation was completed before the anticipated herring migration started, but conditions didn’t allow for completion until August of 2013.

During the Alewives Anonymous, Inc. Annual Meeting on April 27, 2014, it was announced that AA would transfer to Beaton’s Inc., the donations collected – AA monies earmarked specifically for Sippican River improvements and additional monies totaling $10,000. Mr. Douglas Beaton gratefully accepted the funds and expressed his appreciation as follows: “Art, Matt and I want to thank You, AA, and others for the extremely generous donation in support of Hathaway and the River Herring Project. The Dam still needs some repairs, and I believe some of that money will be used for those repairs. Last night’s meeting was a ‘classic’ example of when ‘Grass Roots America’ organizes, cooperates and performs to “get ‘er done.” Looking forward to working with AA, the Rochester community, and others to eventually have river herring spawning in Hathaway and Leonard’s Ponds.”

Mr. Beaton has been supportive in all things herring and has helped AA wherever possible in any of the projects that have come up.

As President of Alewives Anonymous, Inc. and on behalf of the Board of Directors and the AA membership, I would like to express our gratitude and deepest appreciation to Mr. Beaton, Beaton’s Inc. shop crew and everyone else they had involved in the project to install the new aluminum steep pass fish ladder at the Hathaway Pond Dam in 2013 and the many individuals and businesses that supported this project financially.

BBC installed and operated an electronic fish counter in the ladder during the 2014 herring migration season to monitor the fish population entering Hathaway Pond. AA installed and operated an electronic fish counter in the ladder at Leonard’s Pond. The counts from both counters on the Sippican River for this year were very low. Adjustments to the water flow in the ladders were made and will serve as a guide for next year when we hope to start seeing improved results for the herring population in the Sippican River.

Alewives Anonymous, Inc., The Herring Helpers, PO Box 42, Rochester MA 02770, is dedicated to the preservation and increase of the alewife fishery resources in the Mattapoisett River and the Sippican River in the towns of Rochester, Marion and Mattapoisett, MA. We invite you to PLEASE join and help support our efforts. Annual membership is $10. Arthur F. Benner, phone, 508-763-2024; email, artbenner@comcast.net.

By Arthur F. Benner

President, Alewives Anonymous, Inc.


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