Meduxnekeag gets a makeover

9 years ago

    HOULTON, Maine — The view of the Meduxnekeag River from Lowery Bridge shows a beautiful, wide river winding lazily into the distance. What many do not realize is this is an empty desert for many types of fish including the Eastern Brook Trout. Recently the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians (HBMI) received funding to change all that.
Wide, open streams have become the new normal across most of the country and northern Maine is no exception. But this is not what a healthy stream looks like. Streams have “structure”. This means they have rocks that the water moves over and around adding oxygen to the water for fish as it does so. Streams have fallen trees and logs along the banks creating cover for fish to hide from predators. These structures also cause water to flow faster in the channel which helps keep it from heating up.
This is important because fish native to northern Maine thrive in cold water. Unfortunately these natural structures were removed from the Meduxnekeag in the 1800’s for log drives and have not been replaced. This summer, HBMI, in conjunction with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, hope to correct these problems.
Postponed from last fall due to extremely wet weather, the project is slated to begin in late July and will be a culmination of over six years worth of work. It began with a study funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and undertaken by a fluvial geomorphologist (an expert in river systems), who studied the streams in Southern Aroostook in order to determine what was “normal” for Northern Maine. HBMI then approached NRCS and subsequently the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture for funding to build the design he created.
“Our Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) was a perfect fit for what HBMI was proposing,” said Helena Swiatek, district conservationist with NRCS. “With their support, and that of the Maine Departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Environmental Protection, and many of the landowners who own property along the river’s edge, the stream’s structure will be enhanced and restored along the two-mile stretch between Lowery Bridge and Covered Bridge. This will be one of the largest stream restoration projects undertaken in Maine.”
Hundreds of 2-5 foot boulders and large trees will be strategically placed in the stream channel in several different designs. These will be buried and otherwise secured to keep them in place during ice-out.
Once the project is complete, staff from HBMI, NRCS, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District — will engage middle school children in learning about what healthy streams for fish look like and how to protect them.
“The long term goal of the project is to promote a healthy stream for the whole community” says Sharri Venno, Environmental Planner with HBMI. “We would eventually like to see salmon back in the Meduxnekeag but in the short term we are promoting Eastern Brook Trout. Lowery Bridge has always been a good fishing spot for the community and this will just make it better.”
So this summer if you find yourself driving over Lowery or Covered Bridge keep an eye out for the changes to come.