Update on Sheepscot Lake dam opening

Submitted by Carolyn Viens, Sheepscot Lake Association

Sheepscot dam

In March of this year, the residents of Palermo won a major battle in the opposition to LD922, the legislative bill mandating the opening of the Sheepscot Dam to Alewives, and other migrating fishes which would have had a negative impact on the health of the lake. Representative Jeffrey Pierce, of the Maine House of Representatives, and sponsor of LD922, withdrew the bill which is now tabled in the Maine House upon request of Governor LePage.

It was determined that several expensive steps would need to be taken before such legislation should be considered. These steps include the addition of appropriate biosecurity systems deemed necessary to adequately protect the Palermo rearing station, the securing of funding from private sources to assist in installation of a system meeting the DIFW criteria, and the determination of the appropriate timeframe to reopen the fish passage for sea run alewife once the necessary measures are in place at the Palermo rearing station. These steps would be extremely expensive and time consuming to complete, and as a result the legislation was pulled and the removal of the fish gate will not be permitted until needed infrastructure is in place.

The indefinite postponement was a direct result of the citizens of Palermo and the Sheepscot Lake Association (SLA) showing their concern repeatedly during town meetings, as well as through communication with government representatives. It would not have been successful without the ongoing involvement of Senate President Michael Thibodeau, who continually gave support throughout this process.

The Sheepscot Lake Association is continuing efforts to explore the impact of alewives and other species in Maine lakes. We have been working with representatives from other lakes, including Dennis Brown, of the Highland Lake Association (located outside Falmouth), regarding their experience with alewives and the impact on their deteriorating water quality, especially in seasons of low water levels associated with global climate change. Dennis will be discussing his experience at the SLA annual meeting on Wednesday, July 25, (7 p.m., Palermo Town Library).

Let’s all keep up our efforts to keep Sheepscot the beautiful, pristine, and healthy lake shared by so many each year! Thank you for your ongoing support and hope to see you on July 25th!


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