Letter to the editor

Restore the Megunticook River

Mon, 08/30/2021 - 4:30pm

I am writing on behalf of the Maine Chapter of Native Fish Coalition regarding the restoration of the Megunticook River, which travels through the town of Camden and empties into Camden Harbor.

Native Fish Coalition (NFC) is a nonpartisan, grassroots, donor-funded, all volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the conservation, preservation, and restoration of wild native fish.

Founded in Maine, we also have chapters in Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia with members, partners, volunteers, supporters, and followers.

Native fish have been documented in strong numbers below Montgomery Falls, but unfortunately upstream passage is blocked directly above the falls by Montgomery Dam. This includes river herring, American eels, and sea-run brook trout, a diadromous lifeform known as salters.

While still found in Massachusetts and New York, most of the sea-run brook trout remaining in the United States are in Maine.

Unfortunately, salters have been greatly reduced in southern and midcoastal Maine due to dams and other factors.

The health and long-term viability of the Megunticook River’s native fish depends on their ability to navigate between the ocean and fresh water that is free from obstacles such as dams, poorly designed or constructed culverts and road crossings, etc. In order to allow for unimpeded, natural passage of native fish upstream in the Megunticook River, six dams need to be addressed.

There is a proposal to preserve the three upper dams, including the two at the outlet of Megunticook Lake, with the addition of fish passage mechanisms.

Also proposed is the removal of the three lower dams, including Montgomery Dam just above Montgomery Falls, where the river cascades into the harbor.

In addition to acting as barrier to passage for native fish, the presence of these dams alters the river flow, increases water temperatures, creates sediment buildup, and poses flood risks.

We trust that this information will help the residents of Camden make the decision to restore the Megunticook River, as the ecological recovery of an aquatic ecosystem is not complete without the restoration of its wild native fish species.

Tom Johnson is Chair of the Maine Chapter of Native Fish Coalition CC: Maine NFC Board, National NFC Board