BUCKFIELD — Members of the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District want people to heed W.C. Fields’ advice to “remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.”

That’s why Project Manager Michele Windsor has put out the call for volunteers to assist with the Nezinscot Watershed Fish Barrier Survey.

The goal is to locate barriers that could bar sea-run and freshwater fish from traveling upstream to rest, feed and spawn in the watershed, which runs through the towns of Buckfield, Hartford, Sumner and Turner. The training will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, June 26, at the Buckfield Municipal Center, 33 Turner St.

The program includes two hours of classroom time with training conducted by staff at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine program. Volunteers will be teamed up with a survey leader to collect data, including measurements and photographs, at stream and dam crossings. Other potential barriers include culverts situated above the stream, sediment and/or debris.

The areas that will be explored are the east and west branches of the Nezinscot River and the main waterway that runs into the Androscoggin River. Data will be collected later that day and for at least nine other field days per team, with four or five teams helping, Windsor said Tuesday. They’ll measure the dimensions of culverts and/or dams and look at water depth, stream-bottom material and erosion at the culverts.

“It is usually a pretty time- and resource-intensive kind of project,” she said.


Her organization was awarded a Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund grant for $11,580, which covers staff time, some equipment and arranging the training for volunteers.

Two fish species the teams will focus on are the Atlantic salmon and Eastern brook trout.

“Currently, the Atlantic salmon is threatened in various parts of the major rivers, mainly due to dam activity,” Windsor said. Some have been reintroduced upstream to keep the population healthy.

“Eastern brook trout are fairly common, though we have seen some declines and part of that is due to barriers in their habitat,” she said. “They have to be able to have access to various parts of a river ecosystem (for activities) like feeding, spawning . . . and finding winter protection. If they can’t access those areas, it really limits their reproduction and population health.”

Surveyors will also keep an eye out for alewives and make note if any are found, but Windsor said they don’t usually travel this far upstream because they need access to the ocean.

The Gulf of Maine program has been a huge asset to the conservation district, which surveyed the Little Androscoggin River Watershed two or three years ago and Martin Stream. The latter is a tributary of the Nezinscot River Watershed that was surveyed last summer, according to Windsor.


“The program maintains all the data that we collect and they put it on their stream habitat viewer website so . . . people can look at it, including towns and resource managers who want to know where they should put their energies toward fish barriers and passage and fish births,” she said. “Previous surveys have found that about 40 percent of culverts at public or private stream crossings are barriers to fish and wildlife.”

Most of the survey work will be done at public right of ways at road crossings and within stream boundaries, but there might be a need to access the crossings from private land. Surveyors will ask permission to traverse private land and honor all no trespassing and private signs.

After the data is collected, it will take a couple of weeks to process it and separate it out by town, Windsor said.

“We will send them the data so their town road crews will be looking at these culverts and try to prioritize them,” she said. “Not only does it help the fish passage to have proper culverts, it helps with stream function (during) extreme storm and rain events.”

Those wishing to volunteer should preregister by Tuesday, June 23, by calling 743-5789, ext. 101, or filling out the contact form at www.oxfordcountyswcd.org/nezinscot-river-watershed-fish-barrier-survey/

Morning coffee and refreshments will be available during the training, but volunteers should bring a bag lunch, bug spray and boots.

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