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Dams and Fish Passage

 ASF Active in Reducing Impact of Dams on Health of Rivers

ASF is an active force in removing dams where they are no longer needed and improving fish passage upstream and down.  Even now fish passage is a major source of mortality for Atlantic salmon and other species.
  • Hydro dams cause problems in a number of ways:
  • There may be inadequate downstream passage for smolts
  • There may be poorly designed or poorly maintained salmon ladders to allow return migration
  • Accidental problems at fish traps on salmon ladders have occasionally led to significant mortality events
  • A series of dams will act cumulatively to reduce survival
  • In the headpond above a dam, salmon smolt may not even find the dam at the downstream end. ASF research has shown that this is happening in the Mactaquac headpond on the Saint John River.

ASF provides expert advice to governments and industry to remind them of unconsidered consequences of dam construction, such as changes in water temperature and oxygenation, and the special needs of  Atlantic salmon and other migratory fish throughout their migrations to and from the ocean. 

Mactaquac Dam Decision

Mactaquac Dam, largest power-producing dam in the Maritimes, has been a blockage to sea-going native species since it was put in place. Smolt cannot find their way downstream, and returning adults must be trucked up and over the dam.

NB Power in 2016 embarked on consultations on what needs to be done about the dam. It is reaching its total life expectancy, and will require either rebuilding, returning of the river to its former state, or some other solution - all of which will be costly.

ASF is actively providing expertise. For NB Power's process, and to download reports,
click here.



Penobscot River Restoration Project


In the final months of 2015 and Spring of 2016 the final part of the Penobscot Restoration Project was completed. This was a state-of-the-art free-flowing stream bypass of the Howland Dam at the mouth of the Piscataquis River.


On June 11, 2012, a ceremony on the banks of the Penobscot River marked the beginning of demolition of the Great Works Dam, the first of the two lowermost dams on this most important U.S. Atlantic salmon river. Veazie Dam followed with removal in late summer and autumn 2013. The entire project did not result in any loss of hydro power.

This was a cooperative effort that involved ASF for 15 years in a growing partnership with other environmental non-profits, the U.S. Department of Interior, the State of Maine, the Penobscot Indian Nation and the power-generating companies that have owned the dams over those years. It has been a WIN-WIN situation, where the river will be restored, habitat for all native anadromous fish will be improved, and the connection of the Penobscot River to the sea will again be complete.



Other Special Programs

The St. Croix River - For 165 km. this waterway forms the border between Maine and New Brunswick. In 1995, the State of Maine unilaterally closed fishways to block native alewives from reaching their traditional spawning areas. Read more

ASF actively worked with 50 conservation partners to reopen these fishways that are an essential part of the long-term restoration of a healthy St. Croix River. This pressure was essential, as the International Joint Commission and other federal agencies had been unable to resolve this situation. In May 2013 the fishways were again open to the native alewives, in a celebration that brought together conservationists, residents, First Nations and federal governments of both countries.

Hydro Projects in Quebec - ASF provided expert advice to the Quebec Government and Hydro-Quebec regarding the Romaine and various other projects that were being considered for the years ahead. This is important if we hope to avoid many of the problems of the past. So to is the need to monitor the impacts, both with baseline studies conducted beforehand, and careful measuring of the various changes afterward.


Veazie Dam Removal - 5 Sept. 2013

Slides of Veazie Dam Removal to Sept. 5, 2013 3.8MB

Romaine River Perspective

Romaine River - Backgrounder 82.6KB
Romaine - ASF submission 235.3KB