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Fish Passage

Fish have once again become a common sight in the tidal portions of the Woonasquatucket. The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council is working with NRCS and other partners to provide fish passage at the first five dams on the Woonasquatucket to allow fish such as shad and herring, which migrate from salt water to fresh to spawn, and eels, which migrate from fresh to salt to spawn, to move up and down the lower river. Below is the status of the fish passage work on each of the first five dams on the river.

Rising Sun Fish Ladder: After many years of planning, and months of work at the site, the fish ladder at the first dam on the river was completed in 2007. This dam is at the Rising Sun Mills, just up river from Donigian Park, on Valley Street in Providence. Behind the Rising Sun Mill complex there is a viewing platfrom above the fish ladder, which provides great views of the ladder. Below are photographs of the completed fish ladder and the ribbon cutting. For a video of fish using the fish ladder see the videos page.

The fish ladder at Rising Sun Dam, the first dam on the river.

Looking down into the fish ladder from above. The wooden frames create calm areas that allow fish to make their way up the ladder.

Senator Reed at the ribbon cutting for the fish ladder, on June 2, 2008.

Paragon Dam viewed from the downstream side, at a time when the river was low and all of the river's flow was going through a bypass tube at the far end of the dam.

Paragon Dam: The next dam above Rising Sun is the Paragon Dam, visible from the Delaine Street Bridge over the Woonasquatucket River. After many years of work, this concrete dam was removed in 2010.

Atlantic Mills Fish Ladder: The next dam above Paragon is the Atlantic Mills Dam at Riverside Park, on Aleppo Street in Providence. The fish ladder around this dam was completed in 2009. This is likely to be the most complicated fish ladder on the river, both because of the height of the dam and because of a major gas line that cuts through the project site. Since this fish ladder is in a city park it is a great fish ladder for the public to visit. You can actually walk on a grate above the fish ladder and look down into it. Below are photographs of the construction process.

Construction photos of the fish ladder at Riverside Park, Atlantic Mills Dam, in Providence. The first picture is an overview of the project, with the existing dam on the left. The second photograph shows the temporary dam built to hold back the river above the Atlantic Mills Dam while the ladder is being built. The third photo is a detail showing the fishes' downstream entrance to the ladder. The "ground" visible in all three of these photographs is actually the riverbed, and is normally under a couple of feet or more of river water! Photographs by Dick Quinn, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The remannts of Dyerville Dam before the dam removal project.

Dyerville Dam: This dam was 1-1/4 miles up river from Atlantic Mills, behind Buttonhole Golf Course. It was an old wooden dam and the structure of the dam was largely gone, but some of the structure remained in the river. A section of the remaining structure was removed in 2009 to allow fish to get past this dam.

The remannts of Dyerville Dam before the dam removal project.

Manton Dam: The final dam in our fish passage project is 5/8 mile up river from Dyerville. Above this dam is a pond that provides excellent spawning habitat for fish that prefer pools such as shad. In December 2016, we completed our first nature-like fishway at this site. It is a series of pools and weirs in a concrete channel that looks like a stream to the fish. It is also very easy to observe the fish as they swim into the pools in this fishway. In 2017, we observed many herring as they crossed this final fishway on the lower river to new spawning grounds in Manton Pond.

The short videos below, made by Benjamin Eisenberg of New England Infrastructure, Inc., give a wonderful, aerial view of the new fish Mandon Dam fish ladder!

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