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Four Atlantic Salmon Restoration Projects in Maine Get Federal Funding

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021   

BANGOR, Maine -- Efforts are under way to restore Atlantic salmon populations in the Gulf of Maine, by removing dams, replacing culverts and restoring streams.

Salmon are what are known as sea-run fish, meaning they live part of their lives in fresh water and part in the ocean.

John Catena, Northeast and Great Lakes region supervisor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Restoration Center, said dams across the region have blocked Atlantic salmon's migration paths from the ocean to the river to spawn.

This year, four local Maine projects are receiving $900,000 in funding from NOAA.

"These kinds of activities are meant to recover them such that we can actually have a sustainable population over time," Catena explained. "This is an iconic species that was important to Native Americans to sport fishermen, and to any number of other groups throughout the region."

Catena noted Atlantic salmon are endangered, with roughly 1,000 in the Gulf of Maine, where there used to be more than 100,000. He added these kinds of projects also benefit species similar to Atlantic salmon, including river herring and American shad, which also have low populations.

Catena pointed out dam-removal projects have implications beyond removing blockages to fish migration, and many present liability issues for local communities.

"They continue to cause other problems," Catena outlined. "They can degrade water quality, increase the water temperatures, exacerbate local flooding. And so these are oftentimes left to dam owners that don't have the means to deal with them."

Catena emphasized federal infrastructure funding also may help improve thousands of dams and culverts throughout Maine. Many are old and degrading former mill structures. A $1 trillion infrastructure bill is in the works in Congress, passed by the Senate and now being debated in the House of Representatives.


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