The Department of Environmental Protection has begun work on the removal of the Roberts Street Dam, the second and largest of three in Somerset County at the Raritan River.
Taking care of this, according to a release from the DEP, is expected to open up a 10-mile stretch of the middle and upper portions of the river to fish migration for the first time in more than a century.
The work began Monday morning.
The work is being taken care of El Paso Corp., through an agreement secured by the DEP as compensation to the public for harm to natural resources caused by past pollution facilities operated by or affiliated with the company, the release said.
This Roberts Street Dam, formerly called the Dead River Dam, it straddles Bridgewater and Hillsborough, the release said. The removal of it will open a large segment of the Raritan River for fish spawning.
“This project will result in a significant environmental improvement to the Raritan River, enhancing a valuable habitat for fish, restoring balance to the estuary, and improving overall environmental conditions in the river system,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in the release. “It is part of a continuing effort by the Christie Administration to protect and improve the quality of waters in New Jersey.’’
“Removing these dams also will improve recreational opportunities on the Raritan,’’ said Rich Boornazian, assistant commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources, in the release. “It will offer new opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, providing easier access to kayakers and canoeists to use this river.’’
According to the release, the removal of the dam will further increase water flow and habitat improvements realized from removal of the Calco Dam in Bridgewater in summer 2011, which was the first phase of a three-step process.
The removal of three targeted dams in total will open up 10 miles of migratory fish habitat along a stretch of the Raritan that winds through Bridgewater, Hillsborough, Bound Brook, Somerville and Manville, the release said. It also will open up about 17 miles of tributaries, including portions of the Millstone River, to spawning.
None of the dams were originally built for flood control, the release said.
The three targeted dams are:
The targeted dams include:
- The Roberts Street Dam, which is a 6.5-foot-high sheet piling and concrete dam located at river mile 27.9.
- Calco Dam, located at river mile 20.9 and built by the Calco Chemical Co. in 1938 to disperse chemicals from its facility. The dam was essentially a large concrete pipe spanning the river that most recently carried and dispersed wastewater into the river for the Somerset Raritan Valley Sewerage Authority. Calco Dam was demolished in 2011.
- The Nevius Street Dam, located at river mile 27. The rock and mortar dam was built in 1901 for aesthetic purposes and later retrofitted to provide water to ponds on the Duke Estate. Removal of this dam is expected in 2013.