Project makes way for alewives

MEDDYBEMPS — Alewives and Atlantic salmon soon will have an easier time navigating the Dennys River and reaching Meddybemps Lake.

On Monday, Jan. 6, the Downeast Salmon Federation began removing the remains of an unused hydroelectric station that prevents the fish from swimming upstream in the river to spawn.

“The removal of this power station brings us one step closer to restoring the abundant runs of sea-run fish that once abounded in the Dennys River,” said Dwayne Shaw, executive director of the Downeast Salmon Federation.

After the federation has removed the generator, turbines and upper portions of the powerhouse, it will reshape the river bottom and banks to improve fish passage.

“With improved fish passage at this site, alewife numbers in nearby Meddybemps Lake will increase by hundreds of thousands and support the rebirth of the historic commercial harvest,” said Brett Ciccotelli, fisheries biologist with the Downeast Salmon Federation.

Alewives are harvested for lobster and halibut bait, provide forage for other fish and bird species and are traditionally eaten smoked in eastern Maine, Ciccotelli said.

The power station was built in the 1940s, but has been abandoned for several decades and is no longer usable.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources, Passamaquoddy Environmental Department and the town of Meddybemps are providing funding and in-kind support for the hydroelectric station removal.

The Downeast Salmon Federation is still raising funds to cover the work needed for the entire project, which is expected to be completed sometime in 2021.

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