Alewife Restoration Initiative
The Sebasticook Regional Land Trust is a member of the Alewife Restoration Initiative. ARI is a partnership of several communities including China and Vassalboro, as well community conservation groups and agencies such as Maine Rivers, 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.
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 has six old dams that obstruct the migration of the anadromous species including alewives, and blueback herring). The herring play a critical role in returning the health of China Lake for while they only eat krill and zooplankton, everything eats alewives and this provides support for the 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.
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 far reaching 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.
Ladd Dam is currently under construction for a new fish ladder! See photos below:
Below is a former impoundment habitat 2 years after dewatering at Massey Dam.
ARI has attracted funding to provide passage throughout the stream through a combination of fish ladders and removal of some dams where fish ladder construction is not feasible orwhere the dam owner wishes to keep the dam. ARI has worked closely with the community and dam owners to find solutions tailored to each site. As of October 2018, Masse and Lombard dams have been removed. The Masse removal project also resulted in improved service to local Vassalboro Water Company customers when old, difficult to maintain, pipes were replaced near the stream. The next steps involve constructing fish ladders on three ofthe remaining dams: Box, Ladd and Outlet dams in Vassalboro. Design work and permitting has been completed and construction work to provide these ladders is expected to start in 2019. In the meantime, the Maine DMR has begun 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 in the coming years.