The state Department of Conservation and Recreation Tuesday heralded the completion of a three-year, $6.6 million restoration of the Upper Mystic Lake Dam.
In addition to shoring up the dam's structural strength, the project added capacity to move and store water, installed a new emergency spillway, and created an outlet for spawning fish to reach breeding grounds upstream.
DCR officials undertook the project after a May 2006 storm nearly overwhelmed the structure, and was categorized as a "significant hazard" by the state. Construction began in 2009.
"The Dam's rehabilitation ensures that the multi-function uses, recreation, dam safety, flood reduction, environmental habitat enhancement, and historical preservation will benefit the Commonwealth for the future," said DCR Commissioner Edward Lambert, in a statement.
Before the improvements, wildlife faced the most obstacles, but now river eels have their own internal "eel-way," in addition to the fish ladder that allows the spawning herring to move upstream, said Mary Griffin, commissioner for the Department of Fish & Game.
"Opening passage to spawning habitat in the Upper Mystic Lake has the potential to greatly enhance the Mystic River herring population and is important to our statewide goal to restore river herring and American eel," Griffin said.
The dam was first built during the Civil War and was completed in 1865, and is included in the National Register of Historic Places.