American Rivers and NOAA Award $300,000 to Restore Rivers and Fisheries in the Northeast

Dam removal projects in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire will improve public safety, reduce flood risk

May 19th, 2010

Serena McClain, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550 ext. 3004

Washington, DC – Rivers and fisheries in the Northeast will benefit from over $300,000 in grants from American Rivers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Restoration Center. Grants available through the partnership between American Rivers and the NOAA Community-based Restoration Program totaling $748,000 were awarded to projects in seven states, including Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, to improve river health, restore fisheries, improve public safety and reduce flood risks.

The grants to remove outdated dams come in the wake of several dam failures across the region, which caused evacuations and property destruction. The need for dam removal assistance is overwhelming. For example, homes near the Rutan Dam in Stonington, Connecticut were recently evacuated as a result of leaks in the dam. The Rutan was one of several dams that American Rivers was unable to fund. In the Northeast and across the country, need for removing unsafe dams outweighs the funds available.

American Rivers also announced the launch of a new interactive map where visitors can find information about dam removal and river restoration in their area.

“We are helping communities turn their rivers from liabilities into assets,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “By getting rid of an outdated dam and restoring a river to health, we not only improve the environment, we can improve public safety and the local economy as well.” 

“Strong community-based stewardship is the key ingredient to successful coastal habitat restoration,” said Eric Schwaab, Assistant Secretary for NOAA Fisheries. “Our partnership with American Rivers promotes local action on behalf of the habitat that sustains our nation’s fishery resources and provides long-term health and economic benefits to communities.”

Since 2001, American Rivers and the NOAA Community-based Restoration Program have provided financial and technical assistance for more than 125 river restoration projects benefiting fish populations and habitats in the Northeast (ME, VT, NH, MA, CT, RI), Mid-Atlantic (NY, PA, NJ, DE, MD, DC, VA), Northwest (WA, OR, ID), and California. Funding is provided through the NOAA Open Rivers Initiative which seeks to enable environmental and economic renewal in local communities through the removal of stream barriers and restoration of fish that live in both marine and freshwater habitats. 

American Rivers has selected the following Northeast restoration projects to receive grants: 

Project: West Winterport Dam Removal, Marsh Stream (a Penobscot River tributary), towns of Winterport and Frankfort, Maine
Phase: Construction
Amount: $65,000
Grantee: Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation

The Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) will remove the West Winterport Dam on Marsh Stream, a tributary of the lower Penobscot River. The project will restore a 4.5 mile long impoundment to its natural free-flowing condition and restore access to more than 20 miles of river habitat for a variety of native sea-run fish species (Atlantic salmon, sea-run brook trout, alewives, blueback herring, sea lamprey, rainbow smelt, American shad, American eel).

Project: State Hospital (Mill River) Dam Removal, Mill River, Taunton, Massachusetts
Phase: Construction
Amount: $99,000
Grantee: Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development

Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development and its partners are working to restore river health, provide fish passage, and improve public safety on the Mill River, a tributary of the Taunton River in Taunton, MA. The long-term objective is to remove the three lower dams; concurrently, a fish ladder will be installed at the fourth. This will open up access to 37 miles of river and natural pond habitat for river herring, American eel, and other fish. The restoration of the Mill River presents an exciting opportunity to look at an entire river system within an urban setting, creating a recreational and scenic amenity for the city and its residents, as well as for the restoration of a local fishery and of the Narragansett Bay Estuary. One of the goals of the Mill River Habitat Restoration project and removal of State Hospital Dam in particular is to improve public safety in the City of Taunton. The Mill River has a long history of causing flooding of downtown homes and businesses, due to the disrepair and mismanagement of dams. In 2005, Whittenton Pond Dam nearly failed catastrophically, forcing the evacuation of downtown Taunton. American Rivers is working closely with the Taunton Emergency Management Agency to use this project as a way to mitigate hazards.

Project: Lower Montsweag Dam Removal Project, Montsweag Brook, near Wiscasset and Woolwich, Maine
Phase: Construction
Amount: $100,000
Grantee: The Chewonki Foundation

The Chewonki Foundation will remove Lower Montsweag Brook Dam to restore native fish including American eel, river herring, and brook trout. Dam removal will open 3 miles of fish passage and allow for restoration of approximately 20 acres of riverside habitat currently flooded by the impoundment. Hands-on opportunities and an interactive website will be created for students, schools, and researchers to collect and analyze stream restoration data. Public access to Montsweag Brook will be expanded via a streamside trail.

Project: McLane and Goldman Dams Removal Study, Souhegan River, Merrimack River Watershed, Milford, New Hampshire
Phase: Feasibility Study
Amount: $36,447.50
Grantee: Town of Milford

The Town of Milford and the Estate of Helen Goodwin (dam owners) are preparing to undertake a Feasibility Study to determine the impact of removing the McLane and Goldman dams. The development of the study is an important step and will provide the dam owners and the community an opportunity to assess the associated resources and costs. Removal of the McLane and Goldman Dams would restore the Souhegan River by eliminating the impoundments that block fish passage and create water quality problems. This project will also link up to the 14 miles of recently restored Souhegan River downstream of this location realized through the removal of the Merrimack Village Dam and create unobstructed fish passage through Milford, Amherst, and Merrimack to the Merrimack River.

American Rivers is the leading conservation organization standing up for healthy rivers so communities can thrive. American Rivers protects and restores America’s rivers for the benefit of people, wildlife and nature. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters, with offices in Washington, DC and nationwide. Visit www.AmericanRivers.org

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

Established in 1991, the Restoration Center is the only office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) solely devoted to restoring the nation’s coastal, marine, and migratory fish habitats. The Restoration Center works with a wide array of partners to restore mangrove, salt marsh, seagrass, oyster, coral reef, kelp forest, and river habitats. Through habitat restoration, the Restoration Center contributes to the sustainability of commercial and recreational fisheries.


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.