In this May 16, 2021, file photo, river herring, also known as alewives, swim in a stream in Franklin. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

PENOBSCOT, Maine  — The last of five projects aimed at easing the passage for thousands of alewives to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Bagaduce River watershed to reproduce has been completed.

That means alewives will have an easier time this spring, thanks to the efforts of the towns of Penobscot, Sedgwick and Brooksville, along with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and several other organizations, the Bangor Daily News reported.

Alewives are a vital link in the food chain for a number of different species. They swim to freshwater to spawn each spring.

“Everything eats an alewife,” said Bailey Bowden, a member of the Penobscot Alewife Committee. “They are the bottom of the food chain, so the more of those you have, the more of everything else you’re going to have.”

The project aims to help alewife populations that were negatively affected by dams, pollution, overfishing and blocked runs.

“This is not just a little local accomplishment,” said Ciona Ulbrich, a senior project manager at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust who was one of the leaders for the project. “We impact the food chain.”

In addition to the Bagaduce River watershed, improvements were made at Pierce Pond and Wight Pond in Penobscot, Snows Brook in Sedgwick and at Meadow Brook and the Walker Pond outlet in Brooksville.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which helped with funding for the Bagaduce watershed, said that similar improvements elsewhere in Maine could be on the horizon, especially with passage of the recent federal infrastructure bill.