Water Closet for August 26, 2016
[pullquote] “Foote’s since 1955 wants its dam and huge Great Wenham Swamp impoundment where wildlife abounds in year around water.” [/pullquote]The caretakers of the Ipswich River are headquartered in a small castle perched on a high knoll above their charge. Dr. Joseph “Bob” Petranek gave the Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) his house and nine acres of land now called Riverbend where the river turns abruptly north as it flows on down to the EBSCO dam in Ipswich Center. The Association has a float at the foot of their eyrie’s pine covered west slope. Racks with canoes and kayaks near the float await members’ use.
In mid-August after three months with very little rain the old Closeteer and friends from Japan paddled and picnicked on the stretch of the wide river, which is the impoundment behind the dam between Downtown Ipswich and the Boston and Maine railroad bridge. Tributary Miles Brook up from Hamilton converges with its mother just down from the bridge and up from the Association’s float. The afternoon was pleasantly hot and dry; the river calm with no detectable flow. The six Japanese: Niho Kozuru, husband Jeff Hayes, and his mother Kit; Dai Kozuru, Niho’s brother, offspring of sculptors Hajime and Mitsue Kozuru, his wife Mito and their son Koh and daughter Kei in middle school; and the old Closeteer, their host for the paddle, spoke gently subdued by the presence of other animals and thick green vegetation of many species along both banks. The family had descended the knoll into a different world, one visited by only a few people who come to paddle or swim in season. Most of the time the wide river and flanking jungle are without humans. Now and then a train passed adding a bygone touch. The wildlife isn’t bothered by the trains and not much by a dozen or so daily paddlers. No one now shoots its members from banks, and trains or vessels, as in days of yore.
People have been enjoying the mill pond here since the first dam in 1635. Paddler Kit said “peaceful” several times. All in the group felt it. Until the early 20th century the bottoms and uplands along the river were graced by fields. Between words in two languages as they paddled, the old Closeteer tried to imagine the river with the EBSCO dam gone as some plan. The river would become a narrow channel, no longer a millpond whose energy has for over half a century been ignored. It cannot be ignored by river herring, shad, lamprey eels, salmon and sturgeon greeted by a wall with a narrow fish ladder off to the side. These anadromous fish use much more energy climbing the ladder to the water above the dam perched on the ancient ledge of Ipswich’s Upper Falls. Most no longer come at all. Folks who want the fish back spawning as in Indian times have talked for decades of removing the long unused EBSCO dam; the Willowdale Dam at Foote Brothers Canoe and Kayak Rental, six miles upriver; and the Bostik Dam in Middleton. If all goes as planned the Bostik Dam will be razed next year.
The descendants of egg and sperm-laden fish that used to go up-river as far as Reading will still have hurdles at the Willowdale and EBSCO dams. Foote’s since 1955 wants its dam and huge Great Wenham Swamp impoundment where wildlife abounds in year around water. Those abutters of the mill pond from Riverbend to EBSCO probably want their mile long quiet skating and paddling pond to remain. At informational meetings about dam removal many have passionately said so. IRWA will lose its “peaceful” recreational-educational pond but maybe gain lots of fish to marvel at in the spring. And what are a few paddlers lost compared with the gain of millions of fish. Maybe they’ll let kids wade among the dense schools as did Algonquian speaking children four centuries ago. Ah, you see, nothing is simple when humans get involved. To the paddling Closeteer both sides make sense. The Japanese family from nine thousand miles away happily pointing out animals and plants raised the spirits of their old host. Then again when on a spring paddle after the dam is gone future guests may be able to scoop up herring with hands and hats. The old Closeteer and wife had done so with a small basket on a similar river in Rhode Island 60 years ago.
We are told expensive concrete dams are being built in places that mimic the natural rock falls of old. Rather than being steep on the downstream side, they, studded with boulders, slope gradually. The fish ascend rock to rock up wide riffles. If we had our priorities in order and thought long term we might get our invaluable fish back in the numbers our ancestors came here to exploit. With new protections and management we might keep those early good times rolling. The descendants of the herons, cormorants and three otters seen playing just above the EBSCO dam that the foreign visitors delighted in would be delighted in their ways too.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||May||June||July||Aug|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||4.06||3.95||3.89||3.37|
|2016 Central Watershed Actual||1.71||1.51||1.41||2.5**as of Aug 23|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Aug 23, 2016 Normal . . . 5.3 CFS Current Rate . . .0.25 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru July.
** Middleton Stream Team is the source of actual precipitation data for Aug.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584