Improved fish passage insures brook trout return to Brandy Brook

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NEW GLOUCESTER — The town of New Gloucester is restoring fish passage into cold water habitat in the Collyer Brook watershed, due to support from a partnership with state agencies and local nonprofit organizations.

Wild eastern brook trout and other native freshwater fish, as well as a host of other species, will benefit from a new culvert that was installed where Morse Road crosses Brandy Brook. The Collyer Brook watershed contains the best water quality and aquatic habitat, particularly for brook trout, in the Royal River watershed.

Its underlying shallow aquifer keeps the brook water cool and its levels less affected by rain events than other parts of the watershed. Brandy Brook joins Collyer Brook just below the former site of the Old Mayall Mill by Megquier Road in New Gloucester, and eventually feeds into the Royal River.

Although the old 7.3-foot round pipe culvert at the Morse Road site was in serviceable condition, it was impeding fish passage. New Gloucester Town Planner Will Johnson recently took an engineer on site and they witnessed a brook trout unsuccessfully try and reach the culvert, which sat high above the brook. The new, much larger pipe-arch culvert is set deep enough that sand and cobble can move through it, improving fish passage and better equipping the pipe to handle heavy flows from snow melt and rain storms.

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Steve Heinz, conservation chairman of the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited, says, “This project reconnected the upper reaches of Brandy Brook to Collyer Brook, the best water and aquatic habitat in the entire 141 square miles of the Royal River watershed. This is a meaningful step in the right direction, but with impassable dams on the lower Royal River in Yarmouth and Collyer Brook in Gray, there is still restoration work ahead. This project could provide momentum and spur additional watershed improvements.”

“Restored waterways create the conditions for plant and animal life to thrive from the headwaters to the sea,” said Jeremy Bell, river and coastal restoration director for the Nature Conservancy in Maine. “And well designed and constructed bridges and culverts along the way reduce long-term road maintenance costs and help prevent flood damage.”

Johnston attributes the project’s success to the level of collaboration in the funding as well as technical aspects of the project. “Although I provided overall coordination, this project would never would have happened without the support of the various partner organizations,” Johnson said. “The successful leveraging of funds allowed us to cover almost all of the balance in the project’s cost beyond the state grant we received, which helped garner town support and save taxpayers money.”

Partners included Heinz of Trout Unlimited, Sebago chapter, and Alex Abbott, a contractor at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. Johnson, on behalf of the town, submitted the winning grant proposal to the Maine Water Bond and also lined up additional funding from the Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited and Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. The town of New Gloucester contributed fill and other resources.

A new culvert was installed where Morse Road crosses Brandy Brook.

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