SURRY — The renewal of Patten Pond’s historically rich anadromous fish population came one step closer last week when work began on construction of a fish passage under the Surry Road (Route 172) where it crosses Patten Stream.
Early in the week, a crew from Linkel Construction Inc. began clearing a narrow driveway down to the west bank of the stream from the roadway above. Construction of the fishway that will assist alewives in their upstream passage from Patten Bay to their spawning grounds in Patten Pond is scheduled to be complete by Sept. 30.
The town and Linkel signed a contract effective Aug. 25 for construction of the granite weir fish passage designed earlier this year by the Wright Pierce engineering firm in Topsham. At a public meeting last May, project engineer Joe McLean estimated that the project would cost $110,000. The final contract price is $118,000, but Surry is only on the hook for a small portion of the total.
At the most recent Town Meeting, Surry voters approved spending $5,000 on the fish passage.
According to Town Treasurer Tom Welgoss, most of the funding for the project is coming from the Maine Department of Transportation, the agency responsible for maintenance of the culvert that carries Patten Stream under the state highway. Other funds are coming from the Department of Marine Resources, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Maine Council. Other groups and individuals, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust among them, contributed to the cost.
“This is a great example of how individuals, communities and governmental agencies can work together to restore and protect vital natural resources,” Welgoss said in an email last week.
Last spring, McLean described the fishway as comprising five rock walls, each about 8 inches high, spaced at 8-to-10-foot intervals, “like a series of steps” across the stream.
The granite that will be used to build those steps has local ties and historical significance. According to an email from Alewife Committee Co-chairman Susan Hand Shetterly, the stone was formerly part of the underpinnings of the Singing Bridge that, until about 16 years ago, carried U.S. Route 1 over Taunton Bay.
The walls, or weirs, have been designed to work whether Patten Stream is flowing slowly or is in full spate from winter melt-off. The rocks will be pinned to the underlying ledge in the stream and the upstream sides will be filled with a combination of crushed stone and mulch to protect them from floating tree trunks and other debris.
McLean said the key goal of the design was to make the fishway “as passable as possible” in order to maximize the alewife population in the Patten Steam-Patten Pond ecosystem.
At the same meeting, DMR biologist and alewife expert Claire Enterline said Patten Pond could support a population of 280,000 alewives.
From the Surry Road to Patten Bay, the stream flows through land owned by Jim Dickinson, who also owns the adjacent Surry Gardens nursery and landscape. According to an email from Welgoss, once the fish passage has been completed, Dickinson will build a gravel entrance way and parking area to “facilitate limited public access, including school children visitation,” during the spring return of alewives from the sea up the stream. The improvements will also allow scientists from the Department of Marine Resources and other public agencies to monitor the alewife run and provide access maintenance of the fish passage.
Welgoss said he hoped that work on the entrance and related items would be finished this fall, but added, “That contract has not been finalized as yet.”