$49,000 still needed as local match for the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder grant The Nobleboro Historical Society was awarded a $92,505 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on November 15. “This grant is a tremendous boost for the restoration efforts”, said Nobleboro Selectperson and project director Deb Wilson. “It is the largest single grant that we’ve received since the project started in 2007.” The grant requires matching funds of $116,000 and there is now $67,000 on hand. “We have six to eight months to raise the funds,” said project treasurer Russ Williams, “but we’re hoping to raise the money sooner because work on the project is beginning and we need the funds soon to complete the work in a tight timeframe.” Work on the fish ladder must be carried out during the winter when it is not in use by fish—between December 1 and April 1. The Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration, carried out by the Towns of Nobleboro and Newcastle and the Nobleboro Historical Society, has been underway for five years. Before the restoration began, the old fish ladder was tended by Frank Waltz, Sr., who knew how to move rocks within the ladder in just the right way to keep alewives moving upstream. Still, Frank was worried because the fish ladder was deteriorating rapidly. Through freezing and thawing, root action, and the movement of water, the stones that made up the fish ladder had moved and constricted the stream and the problem was getting worse each year. Restoration of the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder coincided with a growing concern along the Eastern Seaboard with the health of river herring stocks, which include alewives and blueback herring. The fish ladder provides passage for river herring from the Damariscotta River to freshwater Damariscotta Lake, where the fish spawn. River herring populations have declined significantly along the entire east coast of the United States and they are now under strict management guidelines by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Despite the management restrictions, the National Marine Fisheries Commission listed river herring as a “Species of Concern” in 2009 and is currently considering whether river herring should be listed as an Endangered Species. In 2010, Project Director Deb Wilson gave a tour of the fish ladder and the restoration efforts to Tony Chatwin, Director of Marine and Coastal Conservation for NFWF, and and Mary Beth Charles NFWF’s Fisheries Conservation Manager. . They were impressed with the great community participation in the project, its scope and the project potential for significantly improving fish passage for a species of great concern—river herring. A few months after the visit, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation invited a grant proposal and, with the leadership of Mary Ellen Barnes of Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission, the Restoration Committee prepared a detailed application for funding to install stone facing in the reconstructed pools. With NFWF and matching funds, the alewives will benefit from optimal elevation change and good circulation within the pools in this middle third of the ladder. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is a non-profit organization that preserves and restores native wildlife species and habitats. Created by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private funds. The Foundation works with individuals, foundations, government agencies, non-profits, and corporations to identify and fund the nation’s most intractable conservation challenges. All gifts to the Fish Ladder Restoration Project are much appreciated – tax-deductible contributions can be mailed to the Nobleboro Historical Society, P.O.Box 122, Nobleboro, ME 04555, or online by visiting the SUPPORT US page on the website, www.damariscottamills.org. For more information, contact Deb Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org (207-380-6997) or Russ Williams at email@example.com.
Look for more news this year in the right column.