It has been almost a year since the breaching of the Veazie Dam.
Federal and state agencies are doing unprecedented work monitoring the Penobscot River.
Their efforts will help other areas around the country know what to expect after a similar restoration project.
Caitlin Burchill reports.
Last July, crews began tearing down the Veazie Dam.
This is the first spring in nearly 200 years fish can migrate from above that spot in the Penobscot River to the ocean.
“We’ve started a survey of the estuary because NOAA Fisheries is interested in the fish that are migrating from the ocean to fresh water to come up to spawn,” said NOAA Fisheries Biologist Justin Stevens.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, Fisheries began studying the estuary before the removal of the dam to get a baseline understanding of the area’s ecosystem. Now they want to see how things will change.
“So what we use for our survey is a hydro acoustic technology, so it’s basically a high-end fish finder,” explained Stevens.
This technology sends energy through the water, which bounces off fish. The computer stores data which they analyze later.
“Looks like that there is a lot of fish lower here in the water column closer to the bottom and the target they were getting back there is pretty consistent with the size of a river herring, a foot long herring. It looks like there is quite a few down here,” said Stevens as he looked at the data.
“Because the dam came out last year, we’re not expecting to see much difference yet because it’s pretty early. It will take several generations to see how large an effect the dam removal will have,” said Christine Lipsky, a NOAA Fishery Biologist.
This is one of many projects that NOAA and other state and federal agencies are doing. There’s a lot of money put into monitoring this River Restoration Project, so why should people like you watching care?
“You can be interested in anything from lobsters to ground fish in the marine area to anything up river, like your brook trout and inland fish, and the connections that the ocean makes to the fresh water is really important on how these ecosystems function,” said Stevens.
How they function affects fishermen, lobstermen, and even seafood consumers.
“And then there’s the wildlife aspect. There’s wildlife to utilize these sea run fish. Things like eagles, osprey, and other birds utilize that forage and it’s important for their success,” he said.
While the long, cold winter made things difficult, these biologists are enthused for the future.
“What we’ve observed so far is that the community we’re interested in, the sea run community, seems to be intact here in the Penobscot, so what we’re interested in is seeing how the population changes and we’re hoping for increases in all the species as a result of dam removals and a focus area on the Penobscot,” said Stevens.
For more information on NOAA Fisheries and their work, visit their website.