Alewives and blue-backed herring in the Dennys River. Credit: Gabor Degre

A fish habitat preservation group is removing an old hydropower station straddling the Dennys River in Washington County so more alewives and Atlantic salmon can make their way upstream into Meddybemps Lake.

The defunct hydroelectric station sits over an artificially narrowed bottleneck in the river, a few hundred feet downstream of where the lake feeds into the river, according to the Downeast Salmon Federation. Work on removing the structure, which does not impound any water, is expected to begin on Monday.

The power station was built in the 1940s, just upstream from where Route 191 crosses the river, but has been abandoned for several decades and is no longer usable, according to the salmon group. The force of the water flowing through the narrow passageway inhibits the migration of alewives and Atlantic salmon upstream into the lake, the group said Thursday.

The project is expected to allow hundreds of thousands of alewives to repopulate the lake and to support the re-establishment of a commercial alewife fishery in the river, as well as to help sustain the river’s ecosystem, according to the group. The work will entail first removing the generator, turbines and upper portions of the powerhouse straddling the river, and then reshaping the river bottom and banks to improve fish passage.

The salmon federation still is raising funds needed to finish the project, which it hopes to do in 2021. The group did not say how much money the project is expected to cost.

The removal of the defunct power station will help to restore the “abundant runs of sea-run fish that once abounded” in the river, Dwayne Shaw, the group’s executive director, said.

Brett Ciccotelli, fisheries biologist for the federation, said Thursday that the project will not alter water levels in Meddybemps Lake. A separate dam further upstream, where a fishway already is located, will not be affected by the restoration project downstream, he 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....