Ken Burton 202-208-5657David Perkins 413-253-8405; Diana Weaver 413-253-8329
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners will pool $4.8 million in 2004 to remove 91 barriers to fish passage in 26 states, including six states from Maine to Maryland.
Service funds for the popular Fish Passage Program, amounting to $2.8 million, will be supplemented by another $2 million in matching funds from a wide array of partners ranging from civic and conservation organizations, local and state governments, to other federal agencies.
In the Service?s Northeast Region, projects will be funded in Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. The Service will assist partners in planning, identification of barriers, engineering fish passage solutions, removing barriers and constructing fishways. Service staff are also monitoring and evaluating the fish passage projects when completed to ensure that they are working.
EDITOR: SPECIFIC PROJECT DESCRIPTIONS IN FOUR STATES
In Maine, the Service will work with partners to remove the Coopers Mill Dam on the Sheepscot River. This dam impedes the passage of endangered Atlantic salmon, American shad, alewives and other migratory fish. Its removal will improve access to 25 miles of habitat. The Service will also identify culverts that impede fish passage in the Penobscot River watershed as well as support the Penobscot River Restoration Project. The project is a unique agreement among dam owners, conservationists, tribes, and state and federal agencies to balance hydropower generation and fisheries restoration.
In New Hampshire, the Service will work with partners on projects in the Ashuelot River watershed. Projects include evaluating the benefits of the recent dam removal on the Contoocook River in West Henniker and a study on the feasibility of removing the Homestead Woolen Mill Dam in Swanzey. In the same watershed, the Service will work with The Nature Conservancy to assess habitat fragmentation caused by culverts, dams and other barriers. The Ashuelot River, a remarkably diverse and ecologically significant river system, serves as a refuge for the endangered dwarf wedgemussel and supports other native freshwater mussels. Historically, the river supported runs of Atlantic salmon and shad, and the river is now considered important for restoring these imperiled native fish.
In New York, the Service will work with partners on the Peconic River Alewife Restoration Program in Riverhead on Long Island. This project aims to reconnect fish access throughout the 22-mile-long Peconic River using fishways and step-pools. Visitors from school programs and the local science museum already enjoy watching fish at an existing fishway that helps alewives and American eels from the ocean reach their spawning and rearing grounds.
The Service will work with the City of Philadelphia and others partners in Pennsylvania to restore the historic hydrology of lower Pennypack Creek with the aim of improving fish passage. Obstructions will be removed from two partially breached dams, and several sections of streambank will be restored to improve fish habitat.
The Service will also help remove a series of dams on Ridley Creek, a tributary to the Delaware River that has been stocked with hickory shad and has received much interest from anglers.
Three dams on the Conococheague Creek, in the Potomac River drainage, block migration for American eels and fish. The nutrient-rich ponds created by the dams alter upstream habitat for aquatic species. Removing the dams will improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat in the watershed.
Heishman?s Mill Dam on Conodoguinet Creek in Cumberland County, near Newville, Penn., is on the National Register of Historic Places. Partners are working with the mill owner to install a channel around the dam for fish passage while maintaining the historic integrity of the property. The project will open more than 25 miles of spawning habitat for American shad, blueback herring and alewife. The dam is the last blockage on the creek. Previous projects included removing Good Hope Dam and Black Dam, and fishway construction at Cave Hill Dam. The entire project will open more than 50 miles of spawning habitat.
Specific projects in Maryland and Vermont have not yet been identified.
EDITOR: END OF SPECIFIC PROJECT DESCRIPTIONS
"Since 2001, the Fish Passage Program has removed 158 barriers across the country," said U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "The Service, working with local communities and partner agencies, is using a voluntary, non-regulatory approach to restore natural flows and fish migration. Rivers are running their natural course, habitat has been restored, and the fish are coming back."
"Our partners in this program enable us to really stretch taxpayer?s dollars," Service Director Steve Williams said. "That gives us a budget that lets us do far more than we could if we were in this alone. It?s all voluntary, and it remains one of the most popular programs."
The fish passage program works to remove obstructions in waterways that prevent fish from reaching spawning grounds or historic habitat. Projects can be as small as inserting culverts under roads or railroad tracks or as large as the removal last February of the 95-year-old Embrey Dam near Fredericksburg, Va., by a military explosives team (AP story at http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4359966).
Many of the small dams targeted for removal date as far back as the American and Industrial revolutions. Those dams were built either to accommodate early barge traffic or to provide power or irrigation for a young country. As times changed, many of the dams were abandoned but remained in place, serving only to block populations of fish and contributing to their gradual decline.
Completion of the 2004 projects will open 19,364 acres and more than 3,048 miles of waterways for fish, contributing to larger populations and more recreational fishing opportunities.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the federal assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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