ASF’s Headwaters program is dedicated to removing barriers to fish passage, restoring stream ecology and natural habitat, and enhancing cold water refugia. Headwaters focuses on small and medium-sized projects that cumulatively have a large impact.


Working closely with communities, governments, Indigenous, and non-government organizations, ASF is committed to identifying the highest value barrier removal and habitat restoration projects. We work to build local support, engineer solutions, raise funds, and complete the work on the ground.


Headwaters started in Maine in 2000. Since then, we have removed over 50 dams and other barriers to fish passage, reconnecting hundreds of miles of river and stream habitat to the sea.


Thanks to the work of ASF and our partners, native sea-run fish populations are experiencing a remarkable recovery. The work that ASF does to restore and re-open these rivers for endangered Atlantic salmon also helps several other species of fish, such as brook trout, American eel, American shad, alewife, blueback herring, and sea lamprey, as well as myriad wildlife species in the freshwater, estuarine, and marine environments.


Before Headwaters began, it was estimated that 90% of the habitat historically used by Atlantic salmon was blocked by dams. Despite our success, there are miles and miles to go before we rest.


Here are some of the most recent Headwaters projects in Maine:

Walton’s Mills Dam and the Sandy River

The Sandy River begins in the High Peaks Region of Western Maine and runs 75-miles to the Kennebec River. Designated as “critical habitat” for Atlantic salmon recovery, the Sandy contains an abundance of high-quality spawning and rearing habitat and is the focal point of salmon restoration in the Kennebec.

In 2023, ASF and our partners completed the Walton’s Mill Dam removal project on Temple Stream in Farmington, Maine. It is one of the largest Headwaters projects to date, reconnecting 52-miles of high-quality, cold-water habitat to the Sandy River. Along with the removal of the dam, ASF worked with the town and community to construct a new streamside park where the impoundment used to be. Atlantic salmon, American eel, and Eastern brook trout will benefit from restored access to Temple Stream.

Penobscot River

In early 2023, ASF received a $7.5 million USD grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service for several barrier removal and habitat restoration projects in the Piscataquis, Pleasant, Passadumkeag, and Mattawamkeag Rivers of the Penobscot River watershed.


This work will build on the tremendous success of the Penobscot River Restoration Project by removing more than 30 barriers to fish passage on these critically important salmon rivers in the next few years. These projects will reconnect 300-miles of stream and river habitat to the sea, along with 10,000 acres of lakes and ponds. The work will involve local contractors and professional service firms, contributing significantly to employment and the economy of rural communities across Maine.


Baskahegan Dam

In the upper Penobscot watershed, construction of a large fishway at the Baskahegan Co. Dam in Danforth, Maine is underway. The structure will restore migratory fish access to 137 miles of stream and 8,960 acres of lake habitat in the Crooked Brook Flowage and Baskahegan Lake, making this project the single largest alewife restoration project to date on the Atlantic coast. Alewives are a keystone ecological species for the Gulf of Maine, providing forage for scores of species. They also co-evolved with Atlantic salmon and provide a critical prey buffer for salmon and a vital source of marine-derived nutrients that promote primary productivity in Maine’s stream ecosystems.

Branch Pond Dam

The construction of a new Alaska steep-pass fish ladder at the Branch Pond Dam is the third and final major project in the Sheepscot River watershed undertaken by ASF over the last decade. Branch Pond and its cold-water feeder streams are the headwaters of the West Branch of the Sheepscot River. The Sheepcot supports the southernmost locally adapted stock of endangered Atlantic salmon in the U.S. At 320 acres, Branch Pond is the fourth largest pond in the entire watershed and the only sizable pond in the entirety of the West Branch, making it a high priority site for fish passage for alewives, American eel, brook trout, and Atlantic salmon. ASF previously removed the Coopers Mills Dam in Whitefield in 2018 and partially removed the Head Tide Dam in Alna in 2019. Altogether, these three projects addressed the most significant barriers in the watershed, significantly improving fish passage to 167 miles of rivers and streams and 1,250 acres of lake and pond habitat, and fully reconnecting the entire West Branch of the Sheepscot to the Gulf of Maine.


In 2024, ASF’s Headwaters program will expand to Canada. We are actively seeking partners  to identify small and medium size projects that can have a large impact. We will consider barrier removals, cold water enhancement work, and habitat restoration.


We will follow the path of ASF’s Maine team; identify projects, make partnerships, build local support, raise the money required, and execute.


Stay tuned for updates.

Meet our team: Maranda Nemeth

Maranda Nemeth is the manager of Maine Headwaters. Maranda grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Allegheny College in 2012 with a major in Environmental Science and minor in Spanish. She worked for several years as a scientist in the engineering and construction field and previously coordinated urban restoration stewardship projects prior to moving to Maine in 2018.


Maranda was hired by the Atlantic Salmon Federation to be the manager of the Maine Headwaters Project in 2019. In this role, Maranda leads a team of stakeholders to advance and implement fish passage projects across Maine. Maranda was recognized for this work by National Marine Fisheries Service as the recipient of the 2021 Partner in the Spotlight Award for recovery of endangered Atlantic salmon.

Meet our team: Nathan Wilbur

Nathan Wilbur is ASF’s Executive Director of Regional Programs. Nathan will oversee the expansion of Headwaters to Canada. Nathan is a professional engineer, avid outdoorsman, and father. In his role, he oversees ASF’s conservation work in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, managing five staff people spread throughout the area.


Nathan and his team are also responsible for relations with ASF’s provincial and state salmon councils, Indigenous organizations, and affiliated watershed groups, more than 100 independent partners in all. The Regional Programs team also works closely with provincial and federal government agencies throughout eastern Canada, positioning ASF well for expanding the Headwaters program into Canada


Nathan’s interest in the natural world inspired him to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Forest Engineering from the University of New Brunswick, followed by a Masters of Science degree in Civil Engineering focusing on fluvial geomorphology and cold water habitats for Atlantic salmon.