Sheepscot River Project Celebrates Milestone with Dedication Ceremony

Collaborative effort completed in Coopers Mills to improve fire protection and enhance native fisheries
Nov 9, 2018

Sheepscot River Project Celebrates Milestone with Dedication Ceremony

November 9, 201

For more information, please contact:
Andrew Goode
, Atlantic Salmon Federation,

Jeremy Bell, The Nature Conservancy in Maine
(617) 921-6566,

Sheepscot River Project Celebrates Milestone with Dedication Ceremony

Collaborative effort completed in Coopers Mills to improve fire protection and enhance native fisheries

On November 13th, local residents along with federal, state, and project partners will gather in Coopers Mills, Whitefield, Maine, to celebrate the completion of the Coopers Mills Project along the Sheepscot River. The project included four components – three new fire hydrants, removal of the dam, improved public access, and preservation of the sites mill history.

The project partners included the Town of Whitefield, Atlantic Salmon Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Midcoast Conservancy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The work has been completed at no cost to the Town of Whitefield.

“The Coopers Mills dam project was a success...” says Selectman Tony Marple, who chaired the citizen committee organized to review the community’s options, “...due to the initiative of the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) and Midcoast Conservancy, both organizations planning and negotiating for months with the town’s hard working dam committee. The project opens the river to sea-run fish, provides three fire hydrants, a new river overlook and a donation to the town for long term maintenance.”

Town voters approved the project in 2016, after considering several options to address the deteriorating condition of the dam. The leaks in the dam had rendered the fishway and fire hydrant inoperable during the summer months.

“I am particularly pleased with the outcome of the new hydrants”, said Andrew Goode of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “They were the most complex part of the project but will provide a more reliable year round source of water for fire protection than the former hydrant.” “Our desire to meet the needs of the community while improving overall river health was the goal from the beginning.”

The Coopers Mills project is the first phase of a multi-year effort along the iconic 66-mile Sheepscot River to improve habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon, shad, alewives and several other sea-run fish species. The broader effort includes the modification of the Head Tide Dam in Alna, new fish passage at the Branch Pond Mill Dam in China, the upgrade of several stream crossings along the tributaries of the Sheepscot, and the restoration of in-stream habitat in the West Branch.

After the voters approved the project in 2016, ASF worked on the final design with an engineering team led by Interfluve, Inc with assistance from Sewall Engineering and Kleinschmidt Associates. Local, state, and federal permits were required and secured for the July 1st construction start date. SumCo Ecological Contracting won a competitive bid to construct the job with assistance from Linkel Construction for the stone and wall work. The river overlook includes stones weighing up to 3,000 pounds from the old dam and a trail around the overlook can be used to view the restored mill foundation wall that had been failing. The landscaping will continue to take place through November and interpretive signage panels along with a kiosk will be erected in the spring of 2019.

A local site committee comprised of Whitefield residents provided input into the historical preservation of the site and the interpretive signs. The total construction costs of the project totaled $567,000. This included the construction of three new dry fire hydrants, the removal of the dam, and enhancements to the town property including a river overlook, interpretive signage, trails, and the stabilization of the historic mill foundation walls.

The dedication will be held on Tuesday, November 13, from 11:00 AM to 12:00PM. The Town of Whitefield & several project partners will offer brief remarks on the project. The Town will also be presented with a check for future stewardship of the site. All are welcome to attend.

The dedication will happen rain or shine. The event will take place at the new interpretive area along the Sheepscot River, off of the Main Street Bridge and Basin Lane in Coopers Mills. Parking is unavailable at the site and limited parking will be available at the Coopers Mill Volunteer Fire Department and Main Street as needed. Please contact Maranda for any questions at or 207-389-5177.

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“The Sheepscot River is one of Maine’s most outstanding resources,” says Kate Dempsey, Maine state director for The Nature Conservancy. “Taking this first restoration step here at Coopers Mills shows that when we work together we can design projects that balance community needs with positive environmental outcomes. This is a win for nature and a win for Maine’s communities.”

"Coopers Mills has been a great project and contributes to our overall goals in the Sheepscot River of improving river health and establishing access to the local communities.” said Jody Jones, Executive Director of Midcoast Conservancy, “We are pleased to have been a part of this collaborative effort."

“Removing the Coopers Mills dam on the Sheepscot River has restored access to valuable upstream spawning habitats for endangered Atlantic salmon as well as for other sea-run fish, such as river herring and shad. Not only will the return of these fish benefit local fisheries and the ecosystem, but it will also support popular recreational and commercial fisheries for striped bass and cod, which prey on these sea-run fish,” says Michael Pentony, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. “After more than a decade of collaborative efforts, we congratulate the Town of Whitefield and other partners on this success, and look forward to seeing the return of sea-run fish in Whitefield.”

“A beautiful river access is nearing completion in the village of Coopers Mills with a new view of the Sheepscot River and information on the history of the site.”, said Select Board member Charlene Donahue, who also was an active member of the site committee.

“The strong coalition of partners behind this project understand that healthy rivers are lifelines for communities in the Northeast, providing recreation, water quality, strong economies and other benefits,” said Will Duncan, USFWS Fisheries branch chief for Species and Habitat Conservation. “By connecting and opening waterways like the Sheepscot River, we’re helping wildlife thrive, improving public safety and creating more resilient communities for people.”

“The projects on the Sheepscot River are an example of how communities can work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals that improve fish passage, preserve river access and provide reliable community services. The projects promote a healthy river for the fish that return to spawn and enhanced access for those that enjoy the river for recreational activities. Enhanced fire protection services at the existing Coopers Mill site and Route 17 will provide reliable sources of water for fire protection from this point forward. We are grateful to those who have dedicated their time and efforts toward achieving both the Department’s fish passage objectives for the Sheepscot River and important projects supported by the surrounding communities.” Mike Brown of the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
Coopers Mills Dam being dismantled in July 2018. Photo John Burrows/ASF

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