Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best of 2012: 1) Protecting and restoring our waters

We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

Before and after aerial shots of the Great Works Dam site on Maine's Penobscot River.

Our rivers and streams connect us to just about everything we do, from drinking and energy to fishing and other recreation. Some of the water barriers that we’ve put in place to harness this precious resource, including road-stream pipes (culverts), dams and dikes, have seriously impacted wildlife and water quality. Of the estimated six million barriers across the U.S., many are now also obsolete and hazards to human health and safety.

Over the past year, the Northeast has made major strides to protect and restore its rivers and streams: 

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar designated the region’s largest river system – the 410-mile-long Connecticut River – as the first National Blueway on May 24, 2012. The program emphasizes the unique value and significance of a headwaters-to-mouth approach and recognizes and supports existing local and regional conservation, recreation and restoration efforts, including those under the Service’s Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge

View from the Connecticut River Community Boathouse, site of the Department of Interior Blueway designation signing event held on May 24, 2012. Credit: USFWS

June 11 began a new era for Maine’s largest river, the Penobscot River, as partners dismantled one of the dams blocking it from the sea. The removal of Great Works Dam was completed this year and will be followed by the removing of another dam, modifying of a third and increasing of fish passage at four other dams. The Penobscot River Restoration Project represents an innovative and comprehensive solution to a number of issues surrounding hydropower relicensing fish passage and the river’s health. Partners consider it the best chance to restore the endangered wild Atlantic salmon. 

Cannan Dam before removal. Credit: USFWS/Scott Craig

A number of other projects improved access for migratory fish in Northeast waters, including the removal of the old Cannan Dam in Maine Township 31. The obsolete dam once provided the strong flows needed to move 8 to 16-foot spruce, white and Norway pine logs to local lumber mills. In spring 1966, St. Regis Paper Company moved 6 million board feet of lumber this way. It's cheaper and easier to haul the logs out by truck now. Removal of the dam benefits endangered Atlantic salmon and resident brook trout.

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