Fish could swim up river, if Montgomery Dam lowered, torn down

By Susan Mustapich | Mar 15, 2018
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Town officials may study restoring fish passage to the Megunticook River, that involves removing or lowering Montgomery Dam at the top of the falls overlooking Camden Harbor.

CAMDEN — The Inter Fluve company, in cooperation with town officials, are studying the restoration of fish passage up the Megunticook River, by either lowering or removing the Montgomery Dam at the Camden Harbor.

Inter Fluve has offices around the country, including Cambridge, Mass.

Select board member Alison McKellar initiated talks about rethinking dam management and repair, during a discussion about repairing the Montgomery Dam in Dec. 2017.  She asked for more time to compare the value of reopening the Megunticook River to fish passage, and environmental improvements, with the ongoing costs of repairing numerous town-owned dams on the river. At the time, she secured agreement from board members to defer a decision on repairing Montgomery Dam, and consider alternatives.

Repair to the dam's concrete surface and repointing the granite blocks forming the sluiceway has been discussed over the past few years. Last June, voters approved up to $50,000 for the work. The town received one bid in 2017 for the repairs estimated in the range of $70,000 to $86,000, from Knowles Industrial Services Corp.

In February, Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell received a proposal from Inter Fluve, proposing a feasibility study to look at options for restoring fish passage to the river by either lowering or removing Montgomery Dam. In a recent manager's report, she explained that the study will position the town to receive funding from the Nature Conservancy and NOAA. She wrote that Jeff Senders and Gartley & Dorskey Engineering "did a great job in bringing this project together."

The Inter Fluve proposal includes involving "project stakeholders, the public, and local, state and federal agencies," as well as data collection in the field, a topographical survey, hydrologic analysis, consideration of the history and aesthetics of the dam's features, and models for removing and lowering the dam.

A study of fish species "that should be considered for conservation in the Megunticook River" as well as natural and technical fish passage approaches will be examined. The cost of the feasibility study is just under $36,000.


Comments (3)
Posted by: Dave Getchell | Mar 16, 2018 14:53

There are 5 more dams on the Megunticook between the Montgomery Dam and the lake...big job to get the fish around those, too. There's hundreds of years of heavy-metals contamination collected in the silted-up pool above the dam just upstream of Knowlton Street.

Posted by: Alison S McKellar | Mar 15, 2018 22:27

Thanks for the story. I just want to add that there are a range of options that don’t necessarily mean tearing it down or lowering, but also reconfiguring the natural ledge in a section or installing a fish passage that allows a way around the dam (maybe a modified sluiceway). Inter Fluve is a great match for Camden because they have a lot of experience with combining urban design and habitat restoration and they understand that aesthetics are very important. They’ve done beautiful work. It will always be beautiful there at the head of the Harbor with the river water crashing down around the bedrock and it will be great to have a full technical evaluation of our options and which species might benefit.

NOAA’s Coastal Resiliency Grants may tie in quite nicely, as well, with other added benefits.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Mar 15, 2018 15:44

Re-open the fish passage. It's the right thing to do!

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