South Middleton Dam
Tributary: Ipswich River
Approach: Dam Removal (in design phase)
The South Middleton Dam is a stone and wood dam owned by Bostik, Inc. It is the third dam on the mainstem of the Ipswich River from the river mouth and the first without a fish passage structure of any kind. There are several tributary streams upstream of the South Middleton Dam that would be opened to fish migration following dam removal. The dam is listed as a Significant Hazard Dam by the MA Office of Dam Safety and, while currently listed in fair condition, is showing some significant signs of wear that will eventually need to be addressed for the dam to remain in place. The total number of river miles that would be opened up as result of dam removal is estimated to be over 56 miles. Dam removal also has the potential to restore access to over 119 acres of historically important spawning lakes for Alewife.
Project Background and Milestones
Bostik, Inc. is concerned about the long-term maintenance, liability and environmental costs associated with the dam and would like to remove the dam if it is economically and logistically feasible. IRWA, began collaborating with Bostik, Inc. in 2008 and in 2009, received grants from the Gulf of Maine Council/NOAA Habitat Restoration Partnership and the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration to assess the level of sediment contamination behind the dam and the infrastructure needs of the adjacent factory site. Bostik, Inc. also contributed to the study. In 2014 the project partners were able to secure funding from a variety of sources to support the design and implementation phases of this project.
Thanks to these generous funders and the support of Bostik, this restoration project should be completed in 2016!
Key dates and reports:
- June 2014: Design/engineering work began
- 2009-2011: Partial Feasibility Study conducted to investigate sediment contamination, sediment management possibilities, and Bostik infrastructure needs. This study was conducted in two phases.
- 2010: Macroinvertebrate Assessment conducted to establish baseline conditions (IRWA, 2011)
- 2006: MA Riverways funded site reconnaissance study for this and the Ipswich Mills Dam (Woodlot Alternatives, 2006)
- As of 2014 project partners are actively seeking funding to support the design and implementation phases of this dam removal project
This site has a rich and diverse industrial history stemming back to the second half of the 17th century. The site has been dammed since the 1670s for various purposes. The dam is currently used to impound water for the fire suppression system at the Bostik’s Middleton plant. An abridged timeline of the site’s history is included below (courtesy Bostik, Inc.)
- 1674: First dam at the site: John Phelps started a sawmill
- 1685 : John McCarty and John Buxton started a “fulling” mill” for cleaning and finishing wool cloth.
- 1709: Ezekial Upton established a grist mill
- 1832: Col. Francis Peabody acquired the property and built a paper mill and later a linseed oil production facility
- 1843: Zenas and Luther Crane bought the property and began manufacturing fine quality paper.
- 1885: Edward Hickey opened a wallpaper business at the site.
- 1900: The current dam was built.
- 1908-1920: Property used as a leather finishing factory
- 1920’s: Became a dyeing establishment
- 1928 – Present: Company known successively as the Boston Blacking Co (shoe blacking), B B Chemical Company, and Bostik, Inc.
- 1953: Dam was modified to its current configuration
- South Middleton Fish Surveys – September 2015
- South Middleton Restoration Moving Ahead – July 2014
- Removing River Roadblocks – November 2013
- Connecting with the Upper Watershed – October 2013
This project was funded in part by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust. Funding for MET grants comes from sales of three environmental license plates. Please consider choosing one of these plates when you register your car and help to Preserve the Trust.