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Downeast Salmon Federation to replace Cherryfield dam

This ice retention dam on the Narraguagus River in Cherryfield will be replaced by a nature-like fishway.
Downest Salmon Federation
via BDN
This ice retention dam on the Narraguagus River in Cherryfield will be replaced by a nature-like fishway.

The Downeast Salmon Federation plans to remove an ice retention dam spanning the Narraguagus River in Cherryfield, which blocks salmon from migrating upstream.

The group will then build a new incline, across the entire river, to allow fish to travel freely, and maintain the current elevation and pond that the dam holds in place. The federation's Charlie Foster said from the shore, the new design should look like a series of rapids.

"So it'd be aesthetically pleasing and nice looking and it would look fairly natural," Foster said. "But it would also maintain the head pond elevation behind the nature lake fish way. So it would keep that flood protection in place."

The project is funded by a $9 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has not yet been released by the federal government.

The dam was installed in 1963, and the federation has been discussing its removal with town officials for several years.

The project will maintain the pond behind the dam, which Foster said is important for flood control in the town. He said a new incline will be added, to allow endangered Atlantic salmon and other fish to freely travel up river.

"So essentially, it's all of the flood control benefits and added fish passage benefits as well," he said.

The dam is the last barrier along the river, Foster said, and the new design will require less maintenance. The federation plans to finalize designs this year, get permits in place next year and begin construction in 2026.

Kaitlyn Budion is Maine Public’s Bangor correspondent, joining the reporting team after several years working in print journalism.