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Federal Funding Secured by Senator Collins Supports Restoration of Sea-Run Fish on St. Croix River

Posted on April 17, 2024

Thanks to nearly $7.8 million in Congressionally Directed Spending secured by U.S. Senator Susan Collins, work to restore sea-run fish in the St. Croix River has received significant added support.

The funding will be used by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to replace a failing fishway at the Woodland Dam in Baileyville with a new state-of-the-art fish lift.

Senator Collins was a strong advocate for this funding throughout the appropriations process, and her role as Vice Chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee was key to securing its inclusion.

“Restoring the failing fishway at Woodland Dam on the St. Croix River will allow for greater passage of important species like river herring and American eels, which are critical to the families and communities who rely on the health of Maine’s lobster and elver fisheries,” said Senator Collins.  “As Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I worked hard to secure this funding, which will promote both environmental sustainability and economic activity in the region.”

“Senator Collins’ support has provided much needed financial backing to restore sea-run species to productive habitats on the St. Croix River,” said Sean Ledwin, Director of DMR’s Bureau of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat.

The existing 1960’s era fishway at the Woodland Dam is at risk of failure, undersized, and poorly designed, limiting fish runs and possibly precluding them if it fails.

“Improved fish passage at the Woodland Dam will restore more than 600 miles of historic habitat for sea-run species and more than 60,000 acres of habitat for alewives, which are a keystone species in the Gulf of Maine,” said Ledwin.

The work is part of a larger restoration effort on the St. Croix where the Milltown Dam was recently removed in Calais and upstream passage improvements are planned which will allow for the rebuilding of sea-run fish populations including shad, alewives, blueback herring, sea-lamprey, and American eels. “These projects will also restore watershed health and increase nearshore productivity of commercially important fish species,” said Ledwin.

The nearly $7.8 million will augment $5 million DMR received in 2022 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – America the Beautiful Challengean additional $14.8 million from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant also received in 2022, and a $2 million grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service DMR received in 2023.  Funding was also provided by the Maine Jobs and Recovery Act for design of the fish lift.

“By increasing access to historic habitat, this work has the potential to produce the most significant river herring population in the United States – with tens of millions returning annually to the river,” said Ledwin.

Construction of the Woodland Dam fish lift is scheduled to begin in the next year along with monitoring and evaluation of fish populations.

Alewives are important to the ecology of freshwater, estuarine, and marine environments. They provide an alternative prey for fish-eating birds and seals that would otherwise target endangered Atlantic salmon.

“Alewives also provide forage for commercially and recreationally important species such as striped bass, bluefish, tuna, cod, haddock, halibut,” said Ledwin. “Rebounding sea-run fish populations will benefit not only nearshore fisheries but will also provide opportunities for a stable bait source for Maine’s lobster industry, and improved opportunities for elver harvesters.”

“I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Senator Collins for her steadfast support for work that will greatly enhance our freshwater and marine ecosystems and create economic opportunities in downeast Maine,” said Ledwin.


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