On September 14th, Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) and partner organizations removed remnants of an old stone dam in Burgess Brook that restricted fish passage. Burgess Brook is a tributary of the Crooked River, which has a wild population of brook trout and smelts, and provides nearly all of the spawning habitat for the landlocked salmon in Sebago Lake.
Our clean lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers are unique, making Western Maine one of the last strongholds for native brook trout and landlocked salmon. LEA and partners are working to expand this habitat, reconnect fragmented waterways, and install safer and more resilient stream crossings in collaboration with private landowners and municipalities.
Removing a barrier to fish passage can mean different things: replacing an undersized pipe with a larger open bottom culvert or removing unused dams and allowing the stream to return to its natural state. The project on Burgess Brook requires both—the decommissioning of an old stone dam and replacing an undersized and damaged culvert.
The Jugtown Forest is owned by Hancock Lumber, a key partner in the project, and consists of 5,000 acres of privately owned working forest open to the public for hiking, horseback riding, ATVing, snowmobiling, and hunting.
The work completed on Wednesday was led by a stream restoration specialist and representatives from LEA, Sebago Clean Waters, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Trout Unlimited, and Hancock Lumber Company. The stone dam was removed by hand to limit the amount of disturbance to the surrounding ecosystem.
Next year, the team plans to remove a damaged and undersized culvert directly downstream and replace it with an open-bottom structure that will allow fish, amphibians, and other aquatic species to easily move upstream. Removing these two barriers will allow access to nearly two miles of priority brook trout and landlocked salmon habitat.
This work is part of a larger project to correct stream crossings that are negatively impacting fish habitat and pose flooding risks in the Sebago Lake watershed. Over the next five years, LEA hopes to work with landowners to open up many miles of stream habitat for native brook trout by upgrading failing culverts as part of its collaborative work with Sebago Clean Waters.
Sebago Clean Waters is a partnership between the Portland Water District and nine local, regional, and national conservation organizations working collaboratively to protect water quality, community well-being, a vibrant economy, and fish and wildlife habitat in the Sebago region through voluntary forest conservation and stewardship. www.sebagocleanwaters.org
Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, a Sebago Clean Waters partner, is a collaboration of agencies, organizations, and individuals working to conserve the ecological integrity of Casco Bay and its watershed through science, public stewardship, and effective management. CBEP is funded by EPA through the Clean Water Act.
Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited is dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring cold water fisheries in southern and western Maine, our sphere of influence.