Cobbosseecontee Stream runs through 15 towns and flows through the City of Gardiner where it meets the Kennebec River. The lakes, streams and ponds of the Cobbosseecontee watershed were once home to at least seven species of diadromous fish. Long dammed, the 240 acres of the Cobbossee Stream watershed represent valuable but inaccessible habitat for alewives and blueback herring. Maine Rivers is focused on supporting efforts for safe, timely and effective fish passage to bring back the historic productivity of native fisheries while maintaining progress made over many decades to eliminate sources of water quality degradation. Learn More…
A long-time member of the Kennebec Coalition, Maine Rivers joined in filing a lawsuit to stop Brookfield Renewable Partners (Brookfield) the owner of four mainstem Kennebec dams from violating federal law. The lawsuit is an effort to focus attention on the impact of hydropower operations on endangered Atlantic salmon. Maine Rivers has long called for restoring the full suite of co-evolved sea-run fish which are essential to the health of the Gulf of Maine. The Endangered Species Act prohibits the killing, harming, or capture of endangered species unless a company has received an “incidental take” permit. Brookfield has been violating the ESA by killing endangered Atlantic salmon migrating upstream and downstream on the Kennebec.
Now with annual runs of fish in the millions, the lower Kennebec has been revitalized by the removal of the Edwards and Fort Halifax Dams in 1999 and 2008. But that success has stalled as Brookfield’s Lockwood, Hydro-Kennebec, Shawmut, and Weston Dams create an impassable wall for adult salmon and other fish moving upstream from the Gulf of Maine. Read More…
Maine Rivers continues to maintain a strong interesting in Marsh Stream, and monitors opportunities to improve the poor fish passage at the Frankfurt Dam to consider advisory roles that may emerge.
The north branch of the Marsh Stream flows through the village of Frankfort in Waldo County. The north and south branches of the Marsh River flow into Marsh Bay and to a tidal section of Penobscot River. The Frankfort Dam in Marsh Stream is located just downstream of U.S. Route 1A. The dam does not have adequate fish passage and largely blocks at least 117 miles of valuable habitat, significantly reducing the productivity of the area for river herring and Atlantic salmon.
The Mousam watershed is a rich and diverse landscape with many areas considered to be of “statewide ecological significance” by the State of Maine. It is also the largest river system in Maine where none of the dams have any form of fish passage.
The Massabesic Forest, the Kennebunk Plains, and several others areas contain rare and exemplary natural communities that support a broad diversity of unique plants, animals, and wildlife. The Mousam River and its hundreds of miles of tributary streams once provided a seamless connection between these “upland” areas and the estuary and ocean, a link that existed for millennia and provided benefits to both the freshwater and marine environments. Species like American shad, alewives, blueback herring, American eel, and Atlantic salmon were historically present. The construction of dams on the Mousam broke this great natural cycle and caused the near loss of the river’s native sea-run fisheries and greatly impacted the fish and wildlife that depend upon them.
The health of the Mousam River has suffered tremendously due to a long history of degradation from pollution and dams. There are 15 known dams in the Mousam watershed, including 11 on the mainstem between the outlet of Mousam Lake in Shapleigh and the head-of-tide in Kennebunk, a stretch of river only 24 miles long. Maine Rivers remains focused on efforts to remove the three lowest dams in Kennebunk, dams that no longer produce power and lack any form of fish passage. We work with the local Mousam and Kennebunk Rivers Alliance. Learn More…
The Penobscot River Restoration Project was a collaborative effort that balanced fisheries restoration and hydropower production in Maine’s largest watershed. The Penobscot River Restoration Project began in 1999. In June 2004, after five years of negotiations, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust signed an agreement for a public-private effort to maintain hydropower and restore sea-run fisheries on the Penobscot. The ambitious project was completed in 2016, and it has vastly improved access for Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fish to nearly 2,000 miles of their historic river and stream habitat. Maine Rivers remains ready to engage in efforts to continue the success of these historic efforts, especially by collaborating with Penobscot Indian Nation to advocate for sustenance fisheries and a healthy future.
Maine Rivers has been involved in efforts to improve fish passage in the Royal River watershed for more than a decade. We have sponsored and coordinated research to assess the impacts of dam removal on existing infrastructure, wildlife and recreation. Our “Rolling Stones” project removed a barrier between the Elm Street and Bridge Street Dams by using low-impact grip hoist technology. Learn more…
Seaward Mills Stream
The overall goal of this project is to establish safe, timely and effective alewife passage to and from Threemile Pond to support a run of up to 400,000+ adult alewives and other diadromous species via Seaward Mills Stream, Webber Pond and Seven-mile Stream. Threemile Pond is located upstream of Webber Pond where a successful alewife restoration project was completed more than a decade ago. Threemile Pond is located within a chain of lakes that make up the entire Webber Pond and Seven Mile Stream watershed. This watershed is located in the highly productive Kennebec watershed, this work builds on more than two decades of successful fisheries restoration. Learn More…
St. Croix River
Maine Rivers maintains connections with Skutik Riverkeepers, State and federal agencies to advocate for restoration of this watershed’s vast fisheries potential.
In 1995, the Maine Legislature passed a law that prevented upstream fish passage for alewives at two dams on the St. Croix River, an international boundary water. The closing of the river came at the request of a handful of fishing guides in Washington County who believed that growing numbers of sea-run alewives had caused the collapse of Spednic Lake’s smallmouth bass populations in the 1980’s. There was no scientific evidence to support these claims. Nonetheless, the Legislature moved forward with the closure, over the objections of conservation organizations and fisheries experts on both sides of the border. Since the closing of the fish ways on the St. Croix, the alewife population has crashed, falling from a high of 2.6 million fish in 1987 to only 1,300 returning adults in 2007. Maine Rivers and allies advocated successfully to reopen the river for this critical native species, overturning a law passed in the Maine Legislature to keep the river closed off the alewives. Since then the runs have been rebounding, with numbers over half a million in 2021 and 2022. This is just the beginning for restoration for this tremendously valuable waterway. New Brunswick Power which operates the Milltown Dam is in the process of decommissioning and removing it, an effort that will both improve fish passage and reclaim an important tribal site.
Wolastoq (Saint John) River
We provide technical and strategic advice to advance the leadership efforts of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians on habitat improvements in Maine and fish passage advocacy in New Brunswick. The Maliseet Indians refer to themselves as Wolastoqiyik, meaning “People of the Beautiful River” in reference to the “Wolastoq,” the Maliseet name for the Saint John River. Today, the Maliseets primarily live in New Brunswick, Canada and across the border in Maine along the Meduxnekeag River. Here is a shared vision statement:
“Since time immemorial, the Maliseet people have maintained an inherent connection to the Meduxnekeag River and the natural resources that it supported. This connection is foundational to Maliseet customs, language, and culture. Diadromous fish species were once a primary food resource for the Maliseet people, but now some of those species are absent from the subbasin. Through restoration of the subbasin ecosystem, the Maliseet Leaders seek the return of native diadromous fish species, particularly Atlantic salmon, to the subbasin to re-connect the Maliseet people and their future relations with their heritage. This will also ensure all people living in the Meduxnekeag River Subbasin, as well as the greater Saint John River and the Bay of Fundy, will have access to a fully functioning ecosystem.”
-Source: Tribal Partnership Program, Section 729 Watershed Assessment Watershed Assessment and Management Plan, Wolastoq (Saint John River) Meduxnekeag Subbasin, State of Maine and Canadian Provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec, March 2022
We support efforts of Downeast Salmon Federation and others to organize and coordinate outreach activities to improve fish passage in the Union River watershed. Challenges in this watershed include a history of destructive drawdowns from Graham Lake that severely impact water quality, as well as poor dam operations that lead to fish kills in the Union River.
Maine Rivers is spearheading efforts to improve fish passage in the Medomak watershed, including alewife passage into and out of Washington Pond as well as at numerous other sites. Maine Rivers has been collaborating with energetic local volunteers from the Medomak Brook Connection, with a vision to continue a restoration success story that started in the 1980s.
The target fish population for this project is river herring (alewife: Alosa pseudohargus and Blueback herring: Alosa aestivalis). Our goal is to establish safe, timely and effective fish passage for river herring and other diadromous species to and from Washington Pond to support an annual run via the 3.5 mile Little Medomak Stream. Learn more…
We continue to seek opportunities for diverse and successful river initiatives throughout Maine.