On an overcast day in Orrington, Maine, six engineers from the Yangtze Water Resources Commission studied the new rock and pool fishway along Sedgeunkedunk Stream. The structure is one of the methods being used to improve passage in the Penobscot River watershed for species like alewife, a migratory fish that serves as a key link in a healthy river’s food chain.
The delegation was here for a two-day tour of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, an innovative plan to open up more than 1,000 miles of river habitat to American shad, river herring, Atlantic salmon and seven other species of sea-run fish in the Penobscot watershed. The process includes the removal of the two lowermost dams and constructing a state of the art fish passage around a third.
A collaborative effort between industry, the Penobscot Indian Nation, state and federal agencies, and seven conservation groups, the Penobscot River Restoration Project is heralded as a successful, ongoing approach that balances ecological health with maintained energy production.
“When most people think of the Yangtze River, they think of the Three Gorges Dam,” said Qiaoyu Guo, The Nature Conservancy’s Yangtze River project manager. “However, there are also many small dams on the river and its tributaries that China is looking to remove. That’s what the delegation has come here to see.”
The Nature Conservancy has identified the Yangtze River as a priority for global freshwater protection. The third largest river in the world, the Yangtze stretches nearly 4,000 miles from the Tibetan Plateau to the Pacific Ocean. Four hundred million people depend on the river’s resources, and the river basin is home to 350 species of fish.
The Conservancy is working with the Chinese government, major hydropower companies and other nonprofit organizations to develop sustainable alternatives to the design and operation of 12 new large dams planned for the Yangtze River. In addition, with more than 400,000 small dams in the Yangtze basin – of which many are in poor repair – there is a growing need to identify priorities for removal.
“The watershed-scale approach on the Penobscot that re-connects freshwater and marine habitats, and also maintains hydropower generation offers good lessons for the visiting delegation,” said Colin Apse, deputy director of the Conservancy Freshwater Program. “This interest in fish passage and dam removal from such an impressive group as the Yangtze Water Resources Commission is very promising for river sustainability in China.”
The CWRC delegation will also visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Silvio O. Conte Lab and the Holyoke Dam fish lift in Massachusetts to learn about state-of-the-art fish passage techniques.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.