Restoring Streams and the Pulse of Tides
Three small projects with outsize impact have been focusing the reserve's attention in this latter half of 2015. Completing these minor feats of engineering will improve the ecology of local watersheds for generations to come. Our science and stewardship team planned for months and years to set up these moments of action on Goff Mill Brook, Branch Brook, and the York River.
Associated People Jacob Aman
WELLS, Maine, September 21, 2015 — On September 18, a small dam was removed from Goff Mill Brook in Arundel near where it flows into the Kennebunk River estuary. The removal reconnects seven miles of stream habitat to the estuary, benefiting brook trout, other migratory and freshwater fish, and the watershed’s ecology. The project was coordinated by the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, working in full partnership with the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited under TU’s national Embrace-a-Stream grant program.
“Goff Mill Brook is now connected to the Gulf of Maine for the first time in at least 60 years,” said Wells Reserve project manager Jake Aman. “We expect many fish and wildlife species to benefit from this restoration, including commercially important fish like American eel and river herring.”
This summer, in our fifth year working with our partners to improve aquatic habitats in Branch Brook, we took on a Herculean task: Remove a four-foot-long wall of large granite blocks, trapped sticks, and sediment from the brook, restoring access to a seven-mile network of stream habitat for native brook trout and a host of other aquatic organisms.
Erosion had caused stones from old bridge abutments to fall into the brook, creating a barrier and raising the upstream water level by several feet. But getting heavy equipment to the site was impractical. How would we maneuver the massive chunks of granite?
Associated People Jacob Aman Timothy Dubay
On Thursday, May 7, a little bit of history was made at the fish ladder located at the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District. For the first time since restoring the fish ladder in December 2013 we successfully caught a fish that we had previously captured and tagged downstream at our Route 9 Branch Brook fishing net. Now, sea lamprey #181 is famous here in the research department!
On Tuesday, six of us traveled to Augusta for the 2015 Maine Sustainability and Water Conference. This conference was established by UMaine in 1994 to bring together water resource professionals, researchers, consultants, citizens, students, regulators, and planners to discuss the future of Maine’s water resources. This year's conference included presentations, panel discussions, and poster displays. Session topics ranged from Ocean Acidification to Municipal Water Resources Management to Urban Sustainability & Climate Change, to Sustainable Engagement with the Food System, as well as many more!
Four reserve staff had the privilege of sharing recent and ongoing projects:
Earlier this month, about 30 people assembled behind an isolated and nondescript brick building along U.S. Route 1 at the boundary of Wells and Kennebunk during one of the wettest mornings of our rather soggy spring.
Everyone was good natured about the rain. After all, we were standing alongside an important water supply that had recently been improved for fish. We huddled under popup tents in foul-weather gear to celebrate the reconstruction of the Branch Brook fish ladder, a piscine highway past the water district's dam.
Associated People Clancy Brown
Since 2010, the Wells Reserve has been working with partners to develop an inventory of stream barriers in the small coastal watersheds of York County. These are usually man-made structures that prevent the upstream or downstream movement of fish and other aquatic organisms, due to the fact that stream crossings were not historically designed with fish in mind. The impacts of stream barriers are particularly severe on migratory fish such alewives or salmon, which move from the ocean into rivers to reproduce.
To measure the success of several tidal wetland restoration projects around the country.
2008 to 2012
Associated People John Speight
Some rotting wood on the outside of the cow barn needed attention, so John was pulling off the beadboard siding this forenoon. At first, he thought he was seeing things, but soon a clear picture emerged. What appeared behind the boards?
Associated People Tin Smith
The Shoreys Brook dam came out in November 2011, and since then the brook has been steadily carving its way through the sediment that has collected for over a century in the impoundment. Vegetation is starting to take hold in places, but it will be a few years before it begins to look like anything but a large mud pit. As old sediment flushes away, older substrates begin to emerge along the stream bottom, showing signs of what the brook once looked like. Gravel, cobble stones, and even boulders can now be seen littering the stream, which is a positive sign for the restoration team. Rainbow smelt are looking for just this type of stream bottom to lay their eggs on in the early spring.
On a classic October morning, a research team heads to the Eliot–South Berwick line, where a private landowner has opened his property for a Wells Reserve study of fish and fish habitat. Parking the pickup at the end of a long hayfield, the five gather up gear and step into a middle-aged pine-oak forest, then head downslope past ferns and toppled trees till the trail goes wet underfoot, the canopy breaks, and they stand at the edge of Shoreys Brook. This is headquarters for the next few hours. It is one of eight sites along the brook’s 4.3 miles being surveyed for resident and migratory fish, and their habitat, in advance of a planned dam removal downstream.
Enjoy this video by Lee Burnett...
About the Project
In 2008, a group of citizens and conservation groups met to discuss the possibility of returning native migratory fish runs to the Mousam and Kennebunk Rivers. Out of these discussions a plan was formulated to gather information about the historic and current condition of these fish and to begin to spread the word to the local communities. In 2009, Maine Rivers hosted a conference where river stakeholders came together to discuss the rivers and share knowledge. At the same time, the Wells Reserve began monitoring the current status of migratory fish in the rivers.
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