Curtis Pond Dam
Tributary: Boston Brook
Approach: Dam Removal (Completed in 2012)
The Curtis Pond Dam was an obsolete dam owned by the Town of Danvers on Boston Brook in Middleton. The dam was originally built in the 1930’s to power the Curtis Brothers’ sawmill which was abandoned in the 1960’s. The Town of Danvers acquired it in the 1970’s as a potential water supply, but never used it for that purpose.
Despite its lack of use over the majority of the last half-century, the Curtis Pond Dam remained in place, degrading habitat conditions in Boston Brook and acting as a barrier to migratory wildlife (fish in particular). Additionally, the dam presented a safety liability and there were long-term costs associated with maintaining it. Categorized as a “significant hazard potential” by the MA Office of Dam Safety, the dam had fallen into disrepair and nearly collapsed after heavy rains in March 2010. Repairing the structure would almost certainly have cost more than removal.
In 2009, rather than repairing the dilapidated structure, the Town of Danvers decided to explore the possibility of removing it and initiated a feasibility study. The town chose to opt for removal and the construction phase began in May 2012.
Dam removal erased any safety concerns and ongoing maintenance costs associated with the dam. Additionally, removing the dam improved conditions for migratory fish (including river herring, American eel and sea lamprey) as well as a variety of resident fish, birds and other important wildlife. The contractors also restored the stream channel and newly re-exposed stream banks in the former impoundment to improve habitat conditions. The dam’s history will be honored as well – artifacts from the power train of the historic mill were salvaged and preserved on site.
Timeline and Milestones
- 1930s Curtis Pond Dam constructed
- 1960s Curtis Brothers’ sawmill abandoned
- 1974: Dam acquired by Town of Danvers
- 2008: Dam fails inspection and listed as unsafe by MA Office of Dam Safety – Danvers required to repair or remove
- 2009-2010: Dam Removal Feasibility Study (full report)
- March 2010: Dam further damaged by high water
- Oct 2010: Danvers makes formal decision to remove dam
- Dec 2011: Project selected as a Priority Project by MA Division of Ecological Restoration
- May 2012: Curtis Pond dewatering begins in preparation for dam removal and channel restoration. Migratory sea lamprey documented upstream of dam
- June 12, 2012: Demolition begins. By afternoon Boston Brook flows freely past the dam for the first time in about 80 years!
- June 2013: Monitoring Report for the first year of post-removal ecological and physical monitoring of Boston Brook at the site.
Project Team: Town of Danvers (owner/project lead), Pare Corporation, Kleinfelder/SEA Consultants, SumCo Eco-Contracting, NOAA Restoration Center, MA Division of Ecological Restoration, Middleton Stream Team, IRWA
Funding Support: MA Division of Ecological Restoration, MA Department of Environmental Protection, NOAA Restoration Center, Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment