Letter: Migratory fish passage is a complex issue 

February 19, 2024

I read the column of February 2, 2024, by Alison Field-Juma, OARS Executive Director, with consternation.  

Ms. Field-Juma argues that it’s important to dismantle Warner’s Pond dam, which would result in the permanent loss of Warner’s Pond, because diadromous (migratory) fish populations are in serious decline in the Merrimack River system.  

While it is unfortunately very true that migratory fish are in trouble, it is a big leap to imply that removal of Warner’s Pond dam will fix the problem. The fish are not waiting at the dam in Concord. They have multiple barriers between here and the ocean. An important one is the Talbot Mills dam. She states: “With the Talbot dam in Billerica removed (2024/25), there will be no impassable barriers between Nashoba Brook and the ocean.” This statement implies that 1) Talbot Mills dam is coming down imminently, and 2) that its removal will mean that Warner’s Pond dam is the only hurdle left – neither of which is certain.  

Removal of the Talbot Mills dam is facing significant pushback because of concerns over the town’s water supply, as well as the question of whether fish have made it as far as that dam.  

The second implication – that Warner’s Pond dam is the last barrier left, is also not true. There are two other large dams between Billerica and the ocean – both of which have mechanisms for fish passage – and yet the fish do not appear to be making it past the first one closest to the ocean, according to the Merrimack River Watershed Council’s November 2023 newsletter.  

The first logical step is to understand why this is happening. Until then, it makes no sense to destroy a new dam (which could be easily retrofitted with a fish passage mechanism) and a pond that is beloved to many, for fish that may never make it to Concord.  

Furthermore, a 2016 Concord River Diadromous Fish Restoration Feasibility Study concluded that fish passage at Talbot dam alone would create adequate habitat “for diadromous fish populations to become self-sustaining in the Concord River system.”  

A Warner’s Pond Task Force has been formed to explore these complex and important issues. Let’s give it time to do its job.  


Anna Feldweg, MD 

Commonwealth Ave