CHESTERVILLE — The Atlantic Salmon Federation will be conducting a fish passage feasibility study at the Wildlife Management Area [WMA] Dam on Little Norridgewock Stream.

In November, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced that four conservation organizations would receive a total of $1,569,333 to restore habitats for coastal and marine species in Maine, help support the nation’s fisheries, contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species, and build resilient coastal ecosystems and communities. The funding was awarded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]. The Atlantic Salmon Federation [ASF] received $401,514 to implement five projects to restore access to Atlantic salmon spawning and rearing habitats in the Kennebec River watershed, one of which is the fish passage feasibility study.

The Franklin Journal emailed questions about the study to ASF Maine Headwaters Project Manager Maranda Nemeth and conducted a later phone interview to obtain more information about the study and other things the federation has planned locally.

Nemeth said the latest funding announcement was actually part of a large initiative that began in 2019 with the latest figures from a grant given in 2021. “It is confusing,” she said. “There are multiple years within these grants, every year Congress has to ‘approve’ them but they are multi-year commitments that we were already within.”

This is the second year in that funding, getting the official approval with no cuts in funding is always a relief, Nemeth said.

“The larger grant covers our efforts to restore fish passage, alleviate infrastructure liability across the Sandy River watershed more broadly and the study we are completing at the management area is one of those projects,” Nemeth said. “It includes several projects: support for the construction at the park improvements/dam removal site in West Farmington and then in Phillips, the town of Temple to design and ultimately construct four road stream crossing replacements.”


This is the second grant given by NOAA for this work, there is some overlaps with those grants in terms of timing, Nemeth noted. “The previous grant supported those road stream crossing replacements that we did in Farmington. It illustrates this is a broad effort, a multi-year event that we have been building and we are so excited to have these partnerships across the communities in the Sandy River drainage and work with willing landowners to do this project and have the support of Senators Collins and King to advance this work. It is so important.”

The engineering designs are still being finalized for the work in Phillips and Temple then federal and local permits will be sought, Nemeth said. If those stay on schedule she anticipates construction to begin in July or August 2023 but it may not happen until 2024. Any work in the river must be completed by the end of September to meet regulatory requirements, she noted. “The towns have reviewed the initial design, we are moving forward. That is exciting.”

Meetings were held with the towns last year to see what their needs were, that’s how sites were chosen, Nemeth said.

“The Sandy River watershed is a cold water and resilient habitat not only for Atlantic Salmon but other aquatic species and the water quality is so pristine,” Nemeth said. “We are excited to prioritize that watershed given these critical features for our wildlife, for our future. It is just a win win too that we are working on  alleviating infrastructure and making sure our projects line up with the towns, what the communities really need, want to accomplish to improve their infrastructure as well. I think it has been really successful.”

In Chesterville ASF has partnered with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife [MDIFW] and 2,000 acres upstream with the wildlife management area. “It is really a simple study that we are completing,” Nemeth said. “The goal is to determine what options there are for fish passage and restoration of aquatic habitat connectivity. As the dam exists right now, it creates a barrier for fish and distribution of mussels and other aquatic species.”

The property was purchased by MDIFW with a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program in 1950 for the purpose of providing waterfowl and wading bird habitat.


There are some structural issues with the dam, it hasn’t been assessed by an engineer in a number of years, Nemeth said. It was time to check, see what options there are going forward, she noted.

ASF and MDIFW along with partners at Maine Department of Marine Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, and NOAA Fisheries selected StreamWorks, PLLC, a qualified engineering team, in the spring of 2022 after a competitive request for proposal process to complete the feasibility study, Nemeth noted. The study is currently underway and will be completed by August 2023 with no restrictions to public access, she said.

The study is being undertaken because of state and federal priorities, Nemeth noted. “The Chesterville WMA Dam is located within designated critical habitat for the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment of Atlantic salmon as finalized in the 2009 Endangered Species Act,” she stated. “The importance of aquatic connectivity to provide safe and timely upstream and downstream passage for Atlantic salmon is prioritized in several federal plans including 2019 Recovery Plan for the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment of Atlantic Salmon [Salmo salar], NOAA’s Species in the Spotlight: Atlantic Salmon 5-year Action Plan [2016-2020], and NOAA’s Atlantic Salmon SHRU Specific Implementation Strategy. Restoring aquatic habitat connectivity is a priority action in state plans including the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture’s Range-wide Conservation Strategy, the Maine Wildlife Action Plan, and in Maine’s strategic sea-run Fisheries Plan. The next steps following completion of the study at the Chesterville WMA are not yet determined.”

There are no commitments beyond the study to do any engineering or plans to seek permits for construction, Nemeth noted. “IFW owns the dam, the wildlife area and that won’t change,” she said. “A goal of the study, we have directed the engineer to come up with options and the one most important requirement is any option has to maintain the same water level regime and also any habitat that is upstream. That is critical because the wildlife management area supports waterfowl reproduction. Manipulating water levels would have an impact on those species.”

There are no further plans to work with other towns at this time, Nemeth said. “Moving forward we would like to identify more projects with local partners and towns, bring in federal dollars to provide fish passage, restore rivers and streams but also improve infrastructure as we can with those communities,” she stated.


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