Fish ladder complete at Center Falls Dam

WINCHESTER, MA - Good news . . . for fish, anyway Thanks to $250k in funding from the EPA Superfund, fish will now be able to cross over the Center Falls Dam (behind Town Hall and the library) and swim upstream toward Woburn and points north. Two companies, Bayer CropScience Inc. and Pharmacia LLC, both the settling defendants under the terms of the consent decree entered in the case titled “United States of America v. Bayer Crop Science Inc, and Pharmacia Corporation, constructed a fish ladder adjacent to the Center Falls Dam. Both companies built and will maintain the ladder. After 5-10 years, the town will take over maintenance responsibilities. Town Manager Richard Howard said that the project won’t interfere with the town’s ability to regulate the dam gates to control flooding. In fact, the agreement clearly specifies that “neither the Companies, their Project Coordinator nor their respective employees, agents, consultants or contractors shall have any right, authority or responsibility with respect to the operation, monitoring, inspection, maintenance, repair or replacement of the Center Falls Dam (“Dam”) or the condition of the Dam, nor shall they have any right, authority or responsibility to manage or control the flow of water over, through, under or around the Dam. All authority, control and responsibility for the Dam and said the flow of water in connection with it shall rest solely and exclusively with the Town.” The agreement also specified the date which the project had to finish, which was Dec. 31. Now, when spring arrives and fish return to the Aberjona River, they’ll be able to continue their trek northward.


The project landed on the town’s radar a year ago when Town Counsel Wade Welch said the town had been asked to comment on the coordination of this potential project with the construction of the remaining flood improvement projects and the operation and maintenance of the flood control projects when completed. To complete the project, the Board of Selectmen had to take several factors into consideration. Those included:

  • Permitting: The additional federal and state permits needed to construct the fish ladder include modifications of the Ch. 91 license and of the USACE general permit 1;
    • Timing: The construction of the ladder needs to take into consideration the time of year restriction imposed by the Mass. Department of Marine Fisheries (DMF) that says no work can be done during migration season, April - June;
    • Operation and maintenance: Once completed, the town should enter into an agreement with the DMF to coordinate water removal prior to major flood events with minimum requirements of water levels required to promote fish migration and spawning.

    Thanks to the Superfund money, the town paid nothing to have the ladder constructed.