ASF nets $7.5 million grant for Maine habitat work

NOAA Fisheries supports major work in Penobscot headwaters and tributaries
Dec 14, 2022
This dam on Crooked Brook in Danforth, Maine, is one of five dams that will receive fish passage improvements. John Burrows/ASF
Brunswick, Maine - NOAA Fisheries announced today that the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) has been recommended for a $7.5 million grant for aquatic habitat restoration work in the Penobscot River watershed over the next three years.

The funding comes through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It will support the removal of 29 barriers to migratory fish at road-stream crossings and significantly advance fish passage at five dams.

As a result, native fish species will regain access to more than 300-miles of stream habitat and more than 10,000 acres of lakes and ponds in major tributaries and headwater areas of the Penobscot watershed.

This restoration work builds on the tremendous success of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which led to a massive resurgence in native sea-run fish by removing the Veazie and Great Works dams and constructing a nature-like, stream bypass around the Howland Dam, all between 2012 and 2015.

“We are incredibly honored to receive this grant from NOAA,” said John Burrows, ASF’s executive director of U.S. operations. “This funding builds on two decades of substantial public and private investment in the restoration of sea-run fish in the Penobscot River. Working with our many great partners, we will now be able to restore access to some of the best habitat in the Penobscot for endangered Atlantic salmon, alewives, and other sea-run fish.”

The work will take place in communities throughout the Penobscot watershed and will involve partners including The Nature Conservancy in Maine and the Appalachian Mountain Club.

“The projects supported by this funding are critical to the recovery of Atlantic salmon and other species in the Penobscot watershed,” said Kate Dempsey, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “Restoring the Penobscot watershed has been a TNC priority for over a decade. We are excited to continue working in partnership with the Atlantic Salmon Federation, NOAA, the Penobscot Nation, and others to realize even more success for fish and people in this vital watershed.”

The grant will help remove or replace 25 road-stream crossings on forest land owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club in Piscataquis County.

"Returning Atlantic salmon to the upper reaches of the Penobscot River watershed by restoring access to smaller rivers and streams, such as the Piscataquis and Pleasant Rivers, is a crucial step in revitalizing this endangered species,” said Susan Arnold, interim president and CEO of the Appalachian Mountain Club. "We are grateful to our partners at NOAA and ASF for supporting our efforts to improve habitat connectivity and restore fish passage on AMC's Maine Woods property.”

The grant will also involve federal, state, local, and tribal groups like Penobscot Indian Nation, Maine Department of Marine Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Town of Danforth, Town of Dover-Foxcroft, and several private landowners.
“The positive impacts of this work will be many, including the economic and ecological benefits of improved returns of sea-run fish throughout the Penobscot watershed and enhanced resiliency of roads and stream crossings to the effects of climate change,” said Pat Keliher, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

The funding from NOAA Fisheries is part of a $24 million total investment in the watershed when grants and spending from other federal, state, and private sources are included. In addition to the benefits for wildlife and the environment, businesses in rural Maine will carry out all of the construction work required.

For more information contact:
John Burrows
(207) 415-6637
jburrows@asfmaine.org

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