FARMINGTON — A vast area of cold water habitats for salmon along the Sandy River and Temple Stream is the basis for a six-month feasibility study on options to provide fish passage at the Walton’s Mill Dam.

The Sandy River and its tributaries are the focus of a salmon restoration project, John Burrows, director of New England Programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, told about 20 residents Wednesday at a meeting about the study’s process.

There are 1,400 habitat areas in Temple, he said, that are each 10 by 10 meters.  These habitats are inaccessible to adult salmon because of the lack of fish passage at the dam, he said. 

The state’s egg-planting program has produced an abundance of juvenile salmon. Adult salmon need to be able to return to these habitats to spawn, he said.

Several neighbors to the dam questioned the potential for removal of the dam, drainage of the pond, the impact on wildlife and the ecosystem of the pond, and recreational use of the area.

While removal of the dam is one option that might find outside funding more easily, there may be other options, Burrows said.  

The purpose of the Dam Options Feasibility Study is to consider what can be done, including fish passages like ladders, removal of the dam or hydropower redevelopment, Joseph McLean, senior project manager for Wright-Pierce, said. Each river and each dam is different. 

At the same time, the landscape architecture firm, Richardson & Associates, will explore alternative ways to improve the park and town land adjacent to Walton’s Mill Dam. An informational meeting for this is planned for 6:30 p.m. June 28 at the Farmington Community Center, Burrows said.

Earlier this spring, the federation offered to fund the study and explore options to allow fish passage through the West Farmington Dam which dates back to 1820. Burrows hired the engineering firm of Wright-Pierce to conduct the study this summer.

Ultimately, the decision is up to the town, Burrows said. But, the town faces potential liability for failure to act under the federal Endangered Species Act, enacted in 1973 to protect and restore endangered species of plants and animals.

Governing agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are aware of the situation. Town officials received a letter from an endangered species coordinator for NOAA in early 2016 expressing concerns about the dam.

The town is likely going to be required to do one of two things: install a fish ladder or remove the dam, Town Manager Richard Davis said at the time.

After another attempt to fund a feasibility study failed, the nonprofit federation stepped up, Burrows said.

Habitats for Atlantic salmon and brook trout are doing well above the dam, Burrows said. Because of the cold water, salmon eggs placed in Temple Stream have contributed to promising results for the Atlantic salmon restoration project.

The salmon return to the sea and head for the waters of Greenland and then return. They travel up the Kennebec River to Waterville where they are trapped and trucked back to the Sandy River.

By 2022, trucking will stop and the fish will have free swimming access, Burrows said.

Burrows can be reached at 725-3833 or [email protected] with questions or ideas.

[email protected]

Joseph McLean of the engineering firm, Wright-Pierce, left, and John Burrows of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, right, listen to a question during a meeting held Wednesday in Farmington to discuss a Dam Options Feasibility Study for Walton Mill Pond Dam.

A tentative schedule for a six-month feasibility study on Walton’s Mill Dam in Farmington includes several public meetings. The study started Wednesday with a public meeting.

Joseph McLean of the engineering firm, Wright-Pierce, left, answers a questions as John Burrows of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, right, listens during a meeting held Wednesday in Farmington to discuss a Dam Options Feasibility Study for Walton Mill Pond Dam. 

Options for providing fish passage over the Walton Mill Pond Dam in Farmington will be explored through a six-month feasibility study.


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