News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, December 8, 2016
Fish passage restoration under way

The Town of Penobscot Alewife Committee and Maine Coast Heritage Trust will hold a public informational meeting at the Penobscot Community School on Tuesday, December 13, at 6 p.m. to talk about projects under way aimed at restoring spawning fish populations in two local streams.

For decades, historically important alewife runs at Mill Brook and Winslow Stream have been partially blocked. In recent years, a number of people in town have been actively collecting data and monitoring the runs, eventually forming the Penobscot Alewife Committee—one of the first groups of its kind in this area. This past summer, the committee has been working with Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the local Blue Hill Heritage Trust to collaborate on the restoration of fish passage on these streams.

“These projects are a balancing act,” Bailey Bowden, chairman of the Town of Penobscot Alewife Committee, said in a news release. “It is important to not only restore fish passage, but also to maintain the current water levels in both ponds for our wildlife, residents, and recreational users, as well as minimize ongoing maintenance costs. We are excited to be working on projects that should achieve all of those goals.”

Designing a way to restore fish passage with minimal impact on pond water levels involves the collection of a lot of data, and the expertise of engineers. After a competitive bidding process, Wright-Pierce of Topsham, a firm with experience in fishway projects around Maine and New England, was selected to design the plans. With funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Penobscot River Habitat Blueprint program and The Nature Conservancy in Maine, engineering studies and proposed plans have been completed for both sites.

“Restoring habitat and former fish runs, in the most natural way possible, is a key goal of this program,” notes Matthew Bernier of NOAA. “These two projects are a really nice fit with our goals, and we are keenly aware that it is hard to find funding for engineering studies.”

“It’s great when we have an opportunity to help a community that really appreciates the importance of healthy streams and spawning fish,” said Jeremy Bell of The Nature Conservancy. “We are really pleased to support this important step towards stream restoration in the town of Penobscot.”

Ciona Ulbrich of Maine Coast Heritage Trust is the primary point person for both projects and adds, “These projects to restore fish passage and habitat build on years of voluntary land conservation work around this river’s watershed.”

The projects are now moving into the permitting stage, and construction is expected to take place in 2017. This public informational meeting will include a description of the projects and provide an opportunity for the public to ask questions. The primary engineer for the work as well as representatives from all the organizations involved will be attending the meeting.