China Lake and the China Lake Outlet Stream reconnected to the Sebasticook River and the ocean, providing free passage for an estimated 950,000 returning adult alewives.
To remove obsolete dams and establish free fish passage at the six dams that historically blocked access to China Lake from the Sebasticook River.
With removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta in 1999 and the removal of the Fort Halifax Dam in Winslow in 2008, sea-run fish passage has been restored from the ocean directly to the Sebasticook River. In 2022 for the first time since 1789, native alewives were able to freely make their way to spawn in China Lake, then safety out migrate back to the ocean.
About the Project
For generations, dams in seven miles of the China Lake Outlet Stream blocked river herring and other migratory fish species. Completion of the China Lake Outlet Stream Project allows free passage for an estimated 800,000-950,000 alewives (river herring), significant numbers of American eel, as well as sea lamprey, white sucker and brook trout. China Lake offers 3,850 acres of spawning habitat; in this tremendously productive watershed, it’s second only to Sebasticook Lake.
The project was supported by members of the local community, and Towns of Vassalboro and China. Restoration can bring in revenue for local communities when alewives are harvested and sold as lobster bait, as in done at nearby Webber Pond.
Barriers to Migratory Fish
#1 – Fish Passage at the Box Mill Dam (COMPLETED in 2020)
The Box Mill Dam was dilapidated and partially breached. A technical fishway was installed to let alewives swim past it. It’s a great place to see fish move upstream in the spring!
#2 – Ladd Dam fishway: (COMPLETED in 2019)
Fish passage was established by constructing a Denil fish ladder for fish to safely make their way around the dam in the spring. This solution keeps the community swimming and recreation area.
#3 – Lombard Dam (REMOVED in 2018)
Lombard Dam was completely removed to allow fish to move freely upstream and downstream.
#4 – Morneau Dam remnants (Removed in 2021)
This old dam deteriorated and its remnants were removed.
#5 – Masse Dam (REMOVED in 2017)
The deteriorating Masse Dam and the collapsing sawmill were removed to allow alewives to move freely past this site. The historic gristmill that houses critical infrastructure for a small private water company has been preserved. The emerging stream banks were planted with native plant species, and with an active program to remove invasive plants.
#6- Fish Passage installed at the Outlet Dam in 2021
Owned by the Town of Vassalboro, this dam controls the water level of China Lake. A Denil fishway was put in place to allow for fish passage while maintaining the water level of the lake.