RITU Restoring Breakheart Pond Connectivity

by | Jun 16, 2024 | Conservation, Fly Fishing - Fresh Water, Native Brook Trout

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Breakheart bank erosion

RITU’s Breakheart Pond Dam Removal Feasability Study

The Rhode Island Chapter of Trout Unlimited has secured funding to begin restoring a historic waterway in Rhode Island’s Arcadia Management Area. This well-researched plan for restoring Breakheart Pond connectivity has a clear mission to restore the safe passage of cold water downstream where native brook trout, wood and spotted turtles and American eels can thrive in waters which do not drive them out or leave them to persh in warm summer months. RITU Breakheart Pond Dam Removal Feasability Study is a long-term project, in close cooperation with RIDEM, fueled by a passion to support native brook trout habitat while being respectful of people’s historic uses and current recreational needs.

“RITU is proposing to conduct preliminary data collection and develop a restoration approach for the eventual removal of the Breakheart Pond Dam,” wrote RITU President, Glenn Place. So begins RITU’s plan, funded in part with a grant from the Rhode Island Coastal and Estuary Habitat Restoration Fund for a Breakheart Pond Dam Removal Feasibility Study. Dams, great and small, often have some charming black and white photographic moments but largely, as they sit idle in bittersweet and poison ivy, serve no purpose. By carefully monitoring and eventually removing this dam, fish and other aquatic animals will find that thremal refuge when cold spring waters are not warmed by stagnant, weed choked pond water. “The removal of Breakheart Pond Dam wil result in the eliminating of aquatic invasive species from Breakheart Pond, and could greatly benefit water quality and prevent further spread of invasive plants down to the mainstem of the Pawcatuck River.” That addresses the truth that all things are connected. By cooling some waters in Arcadia, they will help provide cool waters downsteam in the Pawcatuck. This project wonderfully illustrates the conservation organization’s mission to To bring together diverse interests to conserve, protect, restore and sustain the cold water fisheries and their watersheds in Rhode Island through collaborative, educational, recreational and environmental activities so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout.

Connectivity Is Critical

RITU Restoring Breakheart Pond Connectivity begins with a grant from the Coastal Resoures Management Council. CRMC’s official statement reads, “The Rhode Island Chapter of Trout Unlimited (RITU) and its partners received $38,798 from the Trust Fund for the Breakheart Pond Dam Removal Feasibility Study. The dam has been a barrier for more than 90 years. Removal will reconnect approximately 4.52 miles of stream and significantly reduce water temperatures in Breakheart Brook, the Flat River, and adjoining waterways. R.I. Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) has been monitoring the pond and brook for more than 20 years and has extensive data documenting the negative effects of the dam on water quality and aquatic habitat. The partners will conduct preliminary data collection and develop a restoration approach for the eventual removal of the dam. After the dam’s removal, RITU and the RIDEM plan to develop an interpretive educational trail within the drained impoundment that connects to an existing trail network on the site.”

 Rhode Island has hundreds of dams and impoundments.  According to the 2022 Annual Report on activities of the Department of Environmental Management pertaining to dam safety, “There are six hundred seventy inventoried dams in Rhode Island, which are classified as High Hazard, Significant Hazard, or Low Hazard.” Many of those impoundments still hold back water, even small flows, and are buried in the woods. They don’t rise to the level of 6:00 news but for fish trying to survive in a world of constant human pressure, they can be a death sentence. As often as the fish suffer, silently, neighbors often protest when changes loom, and sometimes, that’s fair. If you bought property on the water and then someone said the water might soon get a lot skinnier, there certainly is warrant for landowner involvement. But, the fishes were here first and oftentimes, restoring waters to their orginal, natural condition, is more pleasing to neighbors over time.

Female Fly Fishers And The Flat River

The Flat River

The RITU Restoring Breakheart Pond Connectivity project begins with removing a small impoundment upstream of Breakheart Pond, which is already in the works.The project aims to, among other bullet points:

  • Conduct a topographic survey of the dam and appurtenances (including the attached bridge)
  • Conduct a structural assessment of the pedestrian bridge and associated spillway walls
  • Desktop review and preliminary consultation with federal and state agencies on sensitive species and habitats within or directly adjacent to the project area
  • Preliminary consultation with RI SHPO
  • Develop conceptual drawings
  • Develop a proposed restoration approach with summary memo and figures
  • Conduct a 4-month public recreational usage assessment of pond, trail below the pond, and parking area
  • Collect 6 eDNA samples (to identify fish, turtles, muscles and species of SGCN that may benefit or be impacted by the project)
  • Public outreach/signage

Restoration Of True Breakheart Pond Flows

Connectivity is the goal and from all that cold water flows many benefits. “The dam has been a barrier to aquatic organisms for over 90 years. Removal of Breakheart Pond Dam will reconnect approximatley 4.25 miles of stream and create over 45 acres of high value wetland and riparian habitat once the dam is removed.”

An ancient impoundment

Under the leadership of Glenn Place and a solid team of directors and volunteers, RITU has set a course to restore cold, clean waters to much needed recreational areas, like the Wood River. Projects like this may raise concerns about prior and continued recreational uses, which is why Glenn and is team always consider downstream effects. It was from TU CEO and President, Chris Wood, that I first heard the expression, that we all live downstream. Facts.

This project is important and will take time. If you are concerned or overjoyed, you can read the grant information here.

“The removal of Breakheard dam will be considered a RITU legacy project for our chapter.”

6 Comments

  1. Bob Maietta

    This is great news. Let’s hope State of Rhode Island agencies, local partners, and federal agencies get behind this project and this dam can be removed in a timely matter.

    Reply
  2. Bruce bain

    Really nice having you back! Cookouts 3rd Tuesday of June,July,august and your always welcome hope to see you

    Reply
    • Todd Corayer

      Thank you Bruce, I’ll see you there.

      Reply
  3. Bob Teeden

    What happens to the Native largemouth bass,Bluegills, pickerel that are all ready established in that pond. So Basically your stocking over native fish By removal of that dam. Then allowing these same native fish be introduced into the Wood River water shed. I guess it doesn’t matter because those fish aren’t as pretty as Brook Trout

    Reply
    • Todd Corayer

      Likely they will reestablish in slower sections of water. No one is stocking anything; it’s a coordinated effort to return a portion of that watershed to its natural paths. And I disagree, I think bluegills are beautiful fish. I do appreciate you reading Fish Wrap.

      Reply

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