After 100 Years, Fish Passage is Restored at Critical Migratory Fish Spawning Grounds in NJ

Photo by the American Littoral SocietyFor over 100 years, the Old Mill Pond Dam in Spring Lake Heights, New Jersey has blocked critical anadromous fish species from reaching optimal spawning habitat. Today, we are thrilled to announce that, thanks to a fish ladder installed by the American Littoral Society (ALS), migratory fish can now scale the dam and access upstream spawning grounds.

The 60-foot-long fish ladder is a device that allows a channel of water to flow through it and is engineered to create both the proper water depth and velocity for fish to navigate through. In this case, it will enable fish to scale the 10-foot-high dam and go deeper into Wreck Pond Brook.

This video from ALS provides an up-close look at the Alaska-Steeppass Fish Ladder and more details about the project:

Re-opening river passage for migratory species improves not only the health of Wreck Pond Brook and its watershed, but it also benefits the overall ecosystem of the Atlantic shoreline and its coastal rivers. It also supports important recreational and commercial species, such as cod, haddock, and striped bass, which leads to a healthier economy.

For over a century, the dam blocked anadromous fish like Alewife and Blueback river herring, from entering the Wreck Pond Brook Watershed. These fish spend most of their lives in the ocean but need freshwater in order to spawn. The Old Mill Pond Dam, an impassable obstruction for these migrating fish, was identified as a key contributor to the decline of Atlantic coast river herring populations. Subsequently, river herring were classified as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Species of Special Concern and identified as requiring Concentrated Conservation Actions.

Design rendering provided by the American Littoral SocietyThe fish ladder, which was funded through the US Fish and Wildlife Service and implemented by ALS along with a variety of project partners, including Princeton Hydro, is one more major step in the ongoing effort to restore critical migratory fish spawning grounds, support a vibrant food web to the area, and rehabilitate Wreck Pond and its watershed.

According to the ALS, “Now, instead of Old Mill Dam acting as the furthest migration destination for Alewife and Blueback river herring, these fish have the ability to navigate up the dam through the fish ladder and utilize roughly an additional mile of optimal spawning habitat. The ALS will add the Old Mill Dam fish ladder and newly accessible spawning habitat into its ongoing river herring monitoring surveys.”

American Littoral Society promotes the study and conservation of marine life and habitat, protects the coast from harm, and empowers others to do the same. Learn more and get involved: littoralsociety.org.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen solutions for fish passage including the installation of technical and nature-like fishways and the removal of dozens of small and large dams throughout the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Images provided by the American Littoral Society. 

Photo by the American Littoral Society