As the bond money runs out for replacing bad culverts to improve passage for fish and other species, here’s one good story demonstrating the importance of these projects. Let’s hope the legislature is paying attention, and will authorize a new bond in 2017.
This story comes from the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and I thank them for sharing it with us, and for their good work on behalf of Maine’s Heritage Fish, the brook trout.
Brownfield, Maine – October 12, 2016 – Porter Road was reopened to through traffic today culminating the Town of Brownfield’s project that replaced two undersized culverts on Porter Road at Linscott Brook with an open bottom, fish-friendly aluminum arch bridge. The culverts had been prone to ice jams that caused road closure and flooding – and were a barrier to fish passage. Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited worked with the town to obtain a Maine Water Bond grant to obtain the funds needed to replace the culverts. Linscott Brook is a feeder to the Shepards River; the watershed contains some of the area’s best small-water brook trout habitat.
Since 2009, Sebago Chapter volunteers have worked with a number of organizations including TNC, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Wells Reserve, and the Androscoggin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District to survey the stream crossings in southwestern Maine. Coordinating with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the USFWS Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, priorities reports were generated that became the focus of chapter habitat restoration efforts. Besides the Shepards River watershed in Brownfield, the report shows the Tenmile River watershed in Porter as a high restoration priority.
With a solid database, Maine leads the nation in mapping its fish passage impediments. With grant money currently available from the Maine Water Bond and other sources, it is ironic that often, the small towns like Brownfield (pop. 1,597) contain the best habitat to reconnect, but have least tax base to afford to build fish-friendly structures and the least staff to apply for grants. In Brownfield, Sebago Chapter worked with other organizations to solve the problem. The Gulf of Maine Coastal Program did the follow-up survey work and preliminary design that were the centerpieces of the grant application; Wright-Pierce Engineering of Topsham donated the cost estimates – after the award they handled the final design and permitting. The Brownfield Public Works Department assembled the open bottom arch replacement structure on site; paving of the affected road section will take place at a later date. Brook trout have already been observed passing upstream.
Another, larger project will be executed next year on the main stem of the Shepards River on the nearby Hampshire Road using another Maine Water Bond award, a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, and town funds. Together, the two projects will reconnect nearly ten miles of high quality wild/native brook trout habitat upstream to over 25 miles of habitat downstream all the way to the Hiram Falls Dam on the Saco River.
To learn more about the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited, visit: www.sebagotu.org