Atlantic Salmon Restoration in Maine: Orrington Dam Removal
The wild atlantic salmon has been a
special symbol for the people and cultures along the North Atlantic coast
for tens of thousands of years. These fascinating fish are born in rivers in the
United States, Canada, Europe and Russia and migrate into the Atlantic ocean
to grow and feed.
They congregate off the coast of western Greenland, and once they’re ready to
spawn, return to the rivers where they were born.
In the United States, wild Atlantic salmon were once found in New England
rivers from Connecticut to Maine. Today, the population that returns the
rivers of the Gulf of Maine is the last wild population of Atlantic salmon in
the United States. To prevent wild Atlantic salmon from
extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries
Service listed the Gulf of Maine population as endangered in 2000.
Working with organizations such as the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the
Penobscot Indian Nation, local communities, industry, and nonprofit
conservation groups, a strong partnership is focused on restoring streams and
rivers throughout Maine for Atlantic salmon. This project came about
many years ago when Eastern Fine Paper went out of
business. This dam and the damn lower
in the river were no longer being utilized by the the mill for their
paper processing, so those dams were turned over to the respective
towns. And this particular dam uh… was turned over to the town of Orrington
and uh… and the lower dam and was turned over to the town of Brewer. The town needed to make a decision as to
what they wanted to do with this area. And it was
either we take the dam out totally and not do anything,
or look for a project that would be pristine for
the community, one to be useful for kayakers, canoers, and so forth. One thing that’s so important on these
projects is reaching out to the communities and understanding what their
needs are, understanding what their perspective is.
And on a project project like the Field’s Pond project,
we actually use National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funds to fund an
assessment. an alternatives assessment. To go in, consultants went and
met with the town explore different opportunities and
options. Looked at dam removal, Looked at fishway construction,
looked at the rock ramp, and really sat down and tried to understand
what the people in the town wanted. And as a result of that, there was a much
more creative solution that was found, which was the construction of
the rock ramp. The rock ramp – or the nature-like
fish way that we see here uh… it it’s an engineered structure that is
uh… specifically designed to uh… resemble uh… a natural stream channel,
but at the same time maintain some of the functions that dams
still provide uh… But we believe it’s the best
alternative uh… to fish passage over keeping a damn structure here which
is the more typical dam that we see on rivers and streams. We electrofish a site just about two hundred
yards down stream of here. We’ve documented
with documented uh… three new coming diadromous
species that have come up to that site, and we’ve captured Atlantic salmon,
alewives, and sea lamprey, like I was saying in these sites.
That’s good news, I think, for connectivity.
Marine drive, or marine species, have made their way into this
fresh water environment. In Sedgeunkedunk stream, two years
after the dam was removed, uh… we estimated uh… around
a hundred and seventy fish job that returned to Sedgeunkedunk, on
their own, without any help from the outside This is dual-fold for me.
Number one was to provide access of alewives and others to the pond,
but also to create an area that the town could be proud of,
one in which would be functional for them, for access to the pond.
And also a place where the they could come back, sit back, and relax.
And on some days, this place is packed – on sunny days and so forth.
So we’re very proud of what we’ve got here.