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St. Croix River fish get a $5 million boost

St. Croix or Schoodic River, at Salmon Falls.jpg
Murray Carpenter
/
Maine Public
The free-flowing St. Croix River at Salmon Falls, just below the Milltown Dam, which will soon be demolished.

The St. Croix River once teemed with millions of migratory fish. New federal funding announced Thursday should give a boost to the recovering fish runs.

The river's runs of alewives, Atlantic salmon, eels, and shad declined after a series of dams blocked the fish from their spawning grounds, and the state of Maine blocked fish passage at those dams.

Now, the fish are getting a boost from $5 million in federal money. The funds will go toward building a fish lift at the Woodland Dam, which will be the lowest dam on the river after the Milltown Dam is removed next year.

Sean Ledwin, of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, says the state is working closely with the Passamaquoddy tribes on the river restoration. He says the river could support as many as 20 million alewives and blueback herring.

"This could be the largest river herring run in North America," Ledwin says. "So it requires a really large fishway."

The money is part of $91 million announced today through the America the Beautiful Challenge, a partnership of the Biden-Harris administration and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.