Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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Smelt Hill Dam Removal Gets Coastal America Partnership Award
Northeast Region, November 20, 2003
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Link to Northeast Region, USFWS; map of regionGulf of Maine Coastal Program staff members Stewart Fefer and Lois Winter and Gordon Russell and Larry Miller of Maine Field Office are among recipients of the 2003 Coastal America Partnership Award for their role in the removal of Smelt Hill Dam on the Presumpscot River. They were recognized at a November 14 award ceremony at Falmouth, Maine.

Also recognized at the event were the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Casco Bay Estuary Project, Maine departments of Marine Resources, Environmental Protection and Transportation, Maine State Coastal Program, Town of Falmouth, Coastal Conservation Association, Maine Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Central Maine Power Company, Friends of the Presumpscot, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and several other financial supporters and construction firms that removed the dam.

Winter presented a speech at the ceremony explaining the larger context of the Smelt Hill Dam removal as part of an exciting partnership effort to bring the Presumpscot River back to life. Until recent years, she said, the river was a victim of massive industrial abuse, assaulted by major air pollution, water pollution and dam construction, but dramatic improvements to water and air quality resulted from the removal of a pulping operation at a paper mill in Westbrook. The change opened the eyes of many to the rich biological and recreational potential of a restored Presumpscot River, she said.

According to Winter, eighty-five percent of the Presumpsot River's riparian corridor is currently undeveloped, due largely to the river's historical use for industrial waste dumping, and today many people envision a protected riparian buffer extending over the entire 27 mile length of the river, from Sebago Lake to Casco Bay. The protected buffer could provide recreational access as well as habitat improvement that would make the river suitable for searun fish, she said.

Removal of the head-of-tide dam at Smelt Hill has opened seven miles of the Lower River, providing habitat for an estimated 6,000 to 24,000 American shad, 78,000 blueback herring, 150,000 to 200,000 alewive and perhaps 25 to 100 Atlantic salmon. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing decisions are pending on other upstream dams, and if several more dams were removed and fish passage were provided at several others, Winter said, the potential exists to restore up to 800,000 searun fish to the Presumpscot. Restoring habitat for all of these fish would benefit the biological vitality and integrity of the Presumpscot River, its estuary and the entire Gulf of Maine, she said.

Removal of the dam cost more than $300,000. The Corps of Engineers, through its Section 206 Program, paid for the majority of expenses and provided technical expertise in designing the dam removal process. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program provided $46,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation-funded Maine Habitat Restoration Partnership grant to Coastal Conservation Association. The grant was made to help catalyze fundraising to purchase the dam, a prerequisite for dam removal. Maine Field Office provided technical support in coordinating the FERC relicensing discussions that were pivotal in the dam removal process.

For a full transcript of Winter's speech, call 207-781-8364. For more information on the removal of Smelt Hill Dam, request Gulf of Maine Coastal Program's 2003 HabITS submission.

NORTHEAST REGION, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE -- Conserving the Nature of the Northeast

Contact Info: Jennifer Lapis, (413) 253-8303, jennifer_lapis@fws.gov
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