For the sake of alewives, wild salmon and public safety, Lincolnville and friends rebuild infrastructure
An unassuming stretch of rural Slab City Road in Lincolnville has a new hot-top; otherwise, drivers might not think twice about its underpinning. But the fish sure will.
Just west of the Chester Dean Road; 1.7 miles west of Route 173 (Beach Road), and 1.59 miles east of Route 52 (Belfast Road), there is a sizable new culvert under Slab City, measuring 38 feet long, 18 feet wide, and six feet in height — big enough to handle the 100-years storms, or even the more periodic rainstorms that swell streams over banks and knock down roads.
This is no ordinary culvert. Lincolnville collaborated with the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Georges River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Maine Council of Trout Unlimited, and the Nature Conservancy to build a passageway underneath the road so that fish can swim downstream, from the 225-acre Coleman Pond, through Andrews Stream to Black Brook, to the Ducktrap River, and then Penobscot Bay.
Or if they want to, they can swim upstream, making the journey from salt water to fresh water, unimpeded.
On a rainy day late in October, the principals involved in getting the new culvert built arrived at the spot from all directions — Lincolnville Town Administrator David Kinney; Camden resident and Trout Unlimited members Dan Daly, as well as Jeff Reardon and Terry Young; Gartley and Dorsky Engineer Bill Lane; NOAA fisheries representative Matt Bernier; Nature Conservancy Watershed Restoration Specialist Ben Matthews; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife cartographer and Fish Passage Specialist Alex Abbott.
Rockport contractors Farley and Son, Inc., had finished constructing the culvert just before school started, and on Oct. 23, Dan Daly delivered the final check to the Kinney and the town of Lincolnville, culminating the project.
“Two and half years ago, Dan called me and we started talking about a new culvert on Slab City Road,” said Kinney.
The impetus was two-fold: The old culvert was deteriorating and the road prone to flooding, making for hazardous driving, or worse, shutting the well-used shortcut between Lincolnville Beach and Route 52.
Plus, in 2013, the old vertical dam at the outlet of the 225-acre Coleman Pond had been replaced with step pools, and a weir fishway, enabling passage for alewives and other fish to and from Ducktrap River and Penobscot Bay. Their route could now follow from the Coleman Pond outlet, down Andrews Stream to Black Brook is 800 feet. Black Brook flows almost a mile to the Ducktrap River. From there, the Ducktrap has a 3.5 mile run to Penobscot Bay.
Black Brook has mapped salmon spawning and rearing habitat for Atlantic salmon and there are limited amounts of modeled salmon rearing habitat are in two tributaries to Coleman Pond. Ducktrap River has salmon spawning habitat and is the only river in the coast of Maine right now that sees wild salmon still swim up it.
A new culvert, reasoned both Daly and the town, would strengthen that ecological habitat network, and improve public safety.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” said Daly.
Total project price was $208,000, and Kinney applied to the DEP for funding assistance and subsequently secured a $95,000 stream crossing improvement grant. Then, others kicked in funding.
The Nature Conservancy contributed $25,000; NOAA, $25,000; Georges River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, $2,000; as well as in-kind donations from US Fish and Wildlife (estimated value $7,500) and the Maine Council of Trout Unlimited (estimated value of $3,000). The remainder of the project costs is being assumed by the Town of Lincolnville.
In Summer 2017, work crews began tearing out the four-foot-round corrugated metal culvert and rebuilt with a new steel-arched culvert spanning 36 feet. The stream bed was regraded, and the natural bottom improved to accommodate the movement of sediment, especially with strong rainfall.
In the end, at State DOT Crossing #11892, all barriers to “aquatic organism passage” were eliminated to “better ensure alewife access to Coleman Pond, as well as to 0.17 miles of brook trout habitat,” according to the DEP grant application.
Since 2013, organizations have been stocking Coleman Pond with trout and alewives, and now that they are three years old, the fishing enthusiasts who gathered at the new culvert late in October are excited to see larger trout.
“The big year should be next year,” they agreed.
Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at email@example.com; 207-706-6657