Messalonskee Stream (photo Doug Watts)
Like many Central Maine streams, Messalonskee has suffered from severe water pollution that it is now only beginning to recover from. Until the early 1990s, pollution discharges from a woolen mill and residential treated sewage caused the stream to fail to meet minimum state standards for dissolved oxygen. Agricultural and other sources of non-point pollution contribute to lowered water quality as well. The impoundment of most of the river by dams exacerbates the pollution by drastically slowing the stream’s natural flow. Events in recent months have given hope that the health of Messalonskee stream in the next century may improve markedly over its health in the past century.
Re-licensing of the stream’s dams by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has forced the Rice’s
The removal of the Edwards Dam in 1999 in Augusta has reconnected the lowermost mile of Messalonskee Stream to the ocean. Last fall, several Kennebec Atlantic salmon were found to have spawned in lower Messalonskee Stream for the first time in many many years.
|In the summer of 2001 a portion of the Union Gas dam, the lowermost hydro-electric dam on the stream collapsed. Soon after, the dam’s owner, Florida Power & Light, drained the dam’s impoundment in Waterville for safety reasons. In September, the company announced that it was removing the center portion of the dam this fall for safety reasons. The company said it has yet to decide if the dam will be rebuilt next year.
Across the United States, communities are recognizing the value of streams that flow through their backyards. Streams that once were severely polluted and considered eyesores are now being viewed as ideal sites for riverside parks,
However, seeds of recovery have begun to take root in Messalonskee. The value of this stream