CHESHIRE -- Is life a little easier for the trout in Thunder Brook?

That will be the subject of a study funded by a state grant to be used by the Hoosac River Watershed Association.

The study, funded by a $4,000 state grant, will be conducted by Watershed Assessment Associates to determine whether the population of benthic invertebrates -- a primary food source of cold water trout -- have returned to natural levels since a dam was removed from Thunder Brook.

The Thunder Brook Dam was removed and an undersized culvert downstream was replaced in 2013 to remove the obstructions to the habitat and allow it to return to its natural state.

A study was done in September 2012 to determine the population of the invertebrates on both sides of the dam prior to its removal, according to Steve McMahon, executive director of the HRWA.

This new study, which will likely be conducted in September, will determine if the habitat has returned to its natural state. The data collected will be compared to pre-restoration conditions to assess the response of the various organisms. The results will help inform the design of future dam removal projects.

"We think that it (the invertebrate population) has returned," McMahon said. "But we have to confirm that since the dam was removed the stream has returned to it natural state. We know that they do come back."

Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett on Monday announced $94,000 in grants for river and wetland restoration projects across the state -- including $4,000 for the Thunder Brook study. The grants will come from the Department of Fish and Game's Division of Ecological Restoration.

"Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in river and wetland restoration," Bartlett said. "The healthier the watershed, the better it can purify water, sustain wildlife and buffer against extreme weather."

The three projects present the greatest ecological, social and economic benefits to the state, officials said.

"River and wetland restoration projects improve habitat for many anadromous fish such as alewife, blueback herring and shad, as well as native trout, migratory birds and small mammals," said Mary Griffin, DFG commissioner. "These projects also help communities remove or repair aging infrastructure, saving cities and towns significant maintenance costs."

The grants also will support existing projects in Wellfleet, Truro and Taunton as well as in Cheshire.

The Herring River Estuary Restoration Project in Wellfleet and Truro will receive $60,000.

This project is the largest tidal estuary restoration proposed in Massachusetts and the North Atlantic coast of the United States. The goal is to restore tidal flow to roughly 1,000 acres of salt marsh and estuarine habitats

The Mill River Restoration Project in Taunton will receive $30,000 to restore habitat connectivity along the entire Mill River through the removal of three dams.

In 2012, Hopewell Mills Dam was removed and in 2013, the Whittenton Dam was breached. This funding will complete upgrades near the site of the first dam- removal project to restore the Mill River and protect essential infrastructure.

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 663-3741, ext. 227.
On Twitter: @BESStafford