MEDDYBEMPS – Old Harry Smith’s power plant on the Dennys River is being removed to make it easier for atlantic Salmon and alewives to get to Meddybemps Lake.
“We’re starting to remove part of an old power station that has been abandoned for 40 plus years that restricts flow in the river and makes it hard for salmon and alewives to migrate upstream,” said Brett Ciccotelli, a Downeast Salmon Federation biologist.
When the small hydropower turbine was built in the 1940s the design included a fish passage.
“There was a fishway set up to lift alewives up into the pond and that had run when the dam was running, but it’s been a long time,” Ciccotelli said.
He added, “and the fish do get through here at some water flows. But the way, you can’t quite see it, but the way this structure pinches the river it makes it harder than most conditions, especially when the fish are trying to migrate to get upstream.”
“It was a power plant until probably the early 70s and it’s been defunct ever since,” said Meddybemps Selectman Peter Trouant.
The top of the rusty massive turbine moved pretty easily with the help of a huge crane, but the bottom section was giving workers some trouble.
“We’re hoping to get enough out today so that later this summer they can put an artificial fishway around the hump that is there and eventually get it all out,” Trouant said.
The old power plant is near the location of a historic Passamaquoddy village that was part of a three year archaeological dig.
“One of our stories is that the river almost turns black before the dams were put in because there was so many alewives running up and down the river,” said Donald Soctomah, a Passamaquoddy historic preservation officer.
He called the power plant’s removal a step in the right direction. As did Jim Robinson, a local fishing enthusiast whose family has been involved with salmon since his great-grandfather shipped in salmon eggs by stagecoach in the 1890s.
“My father wrote a book, he and Ed Bartlett co-authored a book, ‘Salmon on the Dennys, Struggle for Survival.’
His family also helped to found and build the local salmon club.
Ciccotelli said the Downeast Salmon Foundation helped restore four rivers in the region last year.