Alewife Restoration Initiative
Sebasticook Regional Land Trust is a member of the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI), spearheaded by Maine Rivers. The partnership includes several communities including China and Vassalboro, as well conservation groups and agencies such as The Nature Conservancy, China Regional Lake Alliance, China Lake Association, Maine Department of Marine Resources and US Fish and Wildlife Service in a project to restore native migratory fish to the China Lake watershed.
Our thanks go out to Maine Rivers for seeing the project through to completion!
Three fish passage structures have been added and three dams have been removed so the Outlet Stream now connects the Sebasticook fish run to China Lake.
Watch the Maine Rivers video produced by Jerry Monkman of Reel Quest Films, which summarizes the success of the project.
SRLT joined Maine Rivers on a tour of restoration sites along the Outlet Stream on Friday, May 6, 2022. The results are very impressive!
Also check out these short videos!
Fish passage at China Lake outlet
Masse Dam after removal of the decrepit mill
The China Lake spawning grounds are connected to the Sebasticook and Kennebec rivers and the Atlantic Ocean by the fifteen-mile-long Outlet Stream which enters the Sebasticook just above its confluence with the Kennebec. The stream had six old dams that obstructed the migration of anadromous species including alewives, and blueback herring. These fish may play a critical role in returning the health of China Lake for while they only eat krill and zooplankton, everything eats "river herring" (as the species are collectively referred to), and that provides support for the overall fishery. Because river herring eat the zooplankton in some lakes, they have been shown to remove a significant amount of phosphorus from the lake waters thus decreasing the algae bloom in the warm waters of summer.
Some project results:
Ladd Dam shown under construction:
Below is the completed Mill St. fish passge structure.
Landis Hudson from Maine Rivers explains Masse work
Old Masse impoundment free-running in 2022
Box Mill fish passage at Olde Mill Place
ARI attracted funding to provide passage throughout the stream with a combination of dam removals or fish ladders, where dam owner wished to keep the dam. ARI worked closely with the community and dam owners to tailor solutions to each site. Masse and Lombard dams were removed as of October 2018. The Masse removal project resulted in improved service to local Vassalboro Water Company customers when old pipes were replaced near the stream. The next steps were constructing fish ladders on three of the remaining dams: Box, Ladd and Outlet dams in Vassalboro. Construction to provide these ladders started in 2019. In the meantime, the Maine DMR has been stocking about 12,000 alewives annually in China Lake to establish a spawning run that will grow as the stream is opened to the migration.
Maine DMR estimates that a fully restored China Lake will produce an annual run of almost 1,000,000 alewives. River Herring (alewives and blueback herring) hatch in Maine lakes and migrate to the ocean where they grow before returning as adults four years later. These fish have farreaching ecological benefits for our watersheds including improving water quality, providing a vital food source for wildlife and game fish, as well as a source of income for local towns and commercial harvesters during the spring harvest. Fresh or fresh frozen alewives are a favored bait for lobsters.