Workers with R.F. Jordan & Sons prepare to assist Downeast Salmon Federation salt marsh biologist Shri Verrill with removing tadpoles from a pond at the mouth of Smelt Brook on Sept. 18, 2018. The salmon preservation group is having the dam removed from the property, which it acquired last year, to restore fish migration up the brook and to convert the artificial pond back to a tidal salt marsh. Credit: Bill Trotter

SULLIVAN, Maine — By the end of this week, a nonprofit environmental organization hopes to convert a freshwater pond back into a saltwater cove.

With the removal of a granite dam from where Smelt Brook flows into Frenchman Bay, Downeast Salmon Federation hopes to restore an historical smelt run that the fish had used to get from the ocean up into freshwater. Taking out the dam also should allow eels and brook trout to migrate upstream.

The dam is located on a 6-acre property that the salmon federation bought last year for $89,000, according to Shri Verrill, the group’s habitat restoration project manager. The group plans to allow the public access to the property and to cross it from Ocean House Road to get to the shore and use it as an outdoor classroom for school groups.

Posted by Shri Verrill on Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The $15,000 cost for removing the dam, which is being handled by R.F. Jordan & Sons of Ellsworth, is separate from the land purchase price, Verrill said. The project is being funded through private donations and the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, in which wetland impact fees collected by the state are used to help fund separate environmental mitigation projects.

The dam, which is 135 feet long, was built in the late 1960s by a previous landowner, Verrill added.

“They wanted a trout pond,” the salt marsh biologist said. “As much as we can, we’re going to restore [the mouth of the brook] to a natural stream bank.”

Verrill said workers on the dam removal project have relocated hundreds of fish and other aquatic creatures such as salamanders and tadpoles from the pond farther upstream out of harm’s way while the pond is drained and the dam removed. She said the goal is to have the dam removed by Friday.

The drained pond is expected to become a tidal saltwater marsh, Verrill said. Coastal marshes are known to function as nurseries for a wide variety of marine creatures and birds.

“Salt marshes, along with mangrove swamps, are the most productive food production systems in the world,” she said.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....