Our 11 minute movie short "Keystone: voices for the little fish" helps explain what we're doing and why we're doing it.
Early Winthrop settlers had enjoyed abundant sea-run fish, especially alewives and sturgeon, in the early 1700’s before Cobbossee Stream was dammed in Gardiner, Maine. In 1771, Pond Town (as Winthrop was known then) petitioned for fish passage and for over 25 years after that. Upstream Cobbossee's founder, Tina Wood is descended from Enoch Wood, who was a selectman for the town of Winthrop in 1795. He again chose a fish committee to implore Gardinerstown Plantation (as Gardiner was known then) to allow the alewives and sturgeons to pass the dams. The courts favored the dam owners. Returning sea-run fish were barred from their natal streams and ponds.
Three dams in downtown Gardiner remain today and Upstream Cobbossee is working with the dam owners, the City of Gardiner, Maine Department of Marine Resources, NOAA and people like you to create fish passage on Cobbossee Stream in downtown Gardiner. We believe that our beautiful Cobbosseecontee Watershed will be improved with the return of the alewife, a keystone species that brings food and wildlife to central Maine, Merrymeeting Bay, and the Gulf of Maine. Together we are working to restore this dynamic cycle of migration that inspires and adds vitality to our watershed.
Upstream Cobbossee is a local non-profit dedicated to restoring native sea-run fish to the Cobbosseecontee Watershed.
(Picture and film by Jerry Monkman, Eco Photography)
Maine’s returning alewives represent a plentiful food supply providing meals for all sorts of creatures from osprey to racoons not to mention bait for Maine’s lobster fishery. Today bald eagles flourish throughout Maine in large part because of the abundant alewives. As a keystone species, alewife populations up and down the Maine coast undoubtedly help support a healthy ecosystem but don’t think for a moment they are the only game in town.
As spring unfolds in Maine, returning alewives will be joined by a chorus of other fishes including, American eel, shad, blueback herring, sea lampreys, Atlantic and shortnosed sturgeon and stripers. Maine’s natural resource agencies along with environmental groups have worked tirelessly to restore Maine’s many sea-run and native fish species, yet we have so much more to do. Picture by Linwood Riggs 2021riggsphoto.com
The first dam upstream from the Kennebec River (GPD, pictured above) not only serves no purpose, it is harmful to the environment, water quality and blocks fish from going upstream. The least costly option is to simply remove the granite structure but a fishway is an option.
The next dam upstream is a power facility (ATD) that is licensed by FERC. The power dam's federal operating license requires upstream alewife passage soon after the GPD dam is breeched or has fish passage. The power dam already has upstream/downstream passage for American eel and alewives have a "plunge pool" to soften downstream passage. The third dam upstream is New Mills Dam. This is the dam that forms Pleasant Pond, backing up Cobbossee Stream. We would like to see a world-class fish passage facility at the New Mills Dam, with viewing platforms, alewife harvesting facilities, trails along the stream, informational kiosks and a nature education pavilion on the trail up to the high school.
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