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Unused Ellsworth dam to be demolished to allow fish passage

Sean Stackhouse

Sep 25, 2019
ELLSWORTH, Maine — There will now be easy access for fish to travel between the Branch Lake Stream and the Union River in Ellsworth. The dam between the two is set to be taken down before October.

"Every barrier, every obstacle that you remove or help them get over, you make a better chance that they're going to succeed," said Brett Ciccotelli, a fisheries biologist with the Downeast Salmon Federation.

Ciccotelli has been leading the charge to remove the dam in Ellsworth. The Branch Lake Stream Dam was once used to control the drinking water supply in Ellsworth, but for nearly 50 years, it hasn't had a use.

"It had a useful purpose for a while, but for the past 45 plus years, it's just been sitting here slowly rotting away and continuing to block fish passage," said Ciccotelli.

The Downeast Salmon Federation received a federal grant for the project, as well as assistance from National Fish Passage Program (USFWS), the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the City of Ellsworth, the Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Brookfield Renewable Energy.

Brookfield Renewable Energy will be adjusting the water level to allow the crew to work in the stream to remove the dam.

Atlantic salmon, river herring, brook trout, and shad are some the species that will now be able to access the Union River habitat.

Demolishing the dam will also provide new opportunities for thrill-seekers. It will allow extreme kayakers to continue on from the rapids in the Branch Lake Stream to the Union River. It also eliminates liability for the City of Ellsworth, who currently owns the dam.

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"It's a structure that's falling apart and to reopen it for fish migration is a good thing," said Ellsworth City Manager David Cole.

But for Ciccotelli, it's all about improving the lives of fish in Ellsworth waterways.

"By getting rid of this dam, you let them get to that habitat when they want. They don't have to luck out and hit it on the right day and the right year," said Ciccotelli.

Other dams in the Ellsworth area currently control water levels, and the demolition of the Branch Lake Stream Dam isn't supposed to affect overall water levels in the area.

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