Pokey Damn Restoration

pokey damn restoration

The collapsing wooden structure in the foreground is the fishway that DSF plans to repair in the coming months. Without a fishway, Pokey Dam is just high enough to block migrating alewives striving to reach their spawning habitats on the upstream lakes.

One of our latest habitat restoration projects is occurring at the outlet of Crawford Lake. Located at the headwaters of the East Machias River, this site provides access to over 4,500 acres of lakes that are critical as alewife spawning and salmon overwintering habitats. The Department of Marine Resources estimates that over 1 million alewives annually return to the four lakes above this outlet for reproduction, which is about 235 fish per acre! The only problem – a failing fishway could cut off the migration in seconds!

The Denil-style wooden fishway now in place channels a portion of the water’s flow around Pokey Dam, which itself was set in place to regulate water for residential and recreational uses of the lakes. Originally developed by a Belgian scientist in 1909, Denil-style fishways have been successfully adapted to local conditions across the world, but more than 25 years of neglect has made this fishway ineffective. Because a collapse is imminent, DSF suggested immediate repair using the existing model. This action-based project already has the support of the Crawford and Pocomoonshine Watershed Association (the dam owners) , the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine DMR, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While it is not feasible to consider removal of Pokey Dam , there are various ways to keep the fish running strong. There is a time for deconstruction and a time for reconstruction. As the big dams begin to fall on the Penobscot River this summer, a new fishway in will rise to Crawford Lake. As the home watershed of EMARC, this project is especially important to DSF. By the end of October 2013, DSF hopes this project will be completed so that pulses of fish pilgrims may ever bring life to our waters.

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