Take Out the Dams in the Upper Wood River

By Brian O’connor


This article in the NYT  claims “Dams degrade water quality, block the movement of nutrients and sediment, destroy fish and wildlife habitats, damage coastal estuaries and in some cases rob surrounding forests of nitrogen. Reservoirs can also be significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Put simply, many dams have high environmental costs that outweigh their value. Removing them is the only sensible answer. And taking them down can often make economic sense as well. The River Alliance of Wisconsin estimates that removing dams in that state is three to five times less expensive than repairing them.”

How many dams are there in the area which would be encompassed in the Brook Trout Refuge which PRIBT has proposed to RIDEM?


Brian O’connor

There are many tributaries and branches. As Paul Pezza has reported, there are six dams which he knows of on Roaring Brook alone. In an effort to see the ponds from which some tribs originate, yesterday I traveled to Hazard and Baily Ponds in the north western segment of the Wood River drainage. I had never been in this part of West Greenwich before and was amazed at the seemingly endless second growth forest and posted signs. Traveling onwards I skirted Tippecansett, Wickaboxet, Tillinghast, and Hudson Ponds, all with dams.  There are numerous small dams on the small streams between and connecting some of these ponds. I saw Muddy Brook, Coney, and Kelly Brook for the first time. There are numerous privately owned dams in all the headwaters. I would  suggest removing those dams controlled by the state first. The removal of Breakheart Pond in Arcadia and Eisenhour Pond in the Alton Jones Bio-Preserve would allow the re-joining of split brook trout populations in Breakheart and Acid Factory Brooks. The remains of a CCC dam on the Flat River above Plains Rd should also be considered for removal. These ponds raise water temperature five degrees as measured last summer in comparison to the un-dammed Phillips Brook. This increase in temperature is detectable five miles downstream as shown in WPWA studies. In freeing the tributaries we would re-connect brook trout populations and lower water temperatures, causing increased resiliency in the face of climate change. All populations of upper Wood River brook trout  are awaiting their future reunion in the mainstem.

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