A Blueprint for Restoring the Penobscot River

Working with NOAA and other partners, the remarkable habitats of Maine's mighty Penobscot River can be restored to good health.

The Nature Conservancy is funded by NOAA to help manage NOAA’s Penobscot Habitat Focus Area. The goal of the Habitat Blueprint is to continue to restore habitat for sea-run fish and other wildlife by removing barriers, building fishways and replacing culverts in the Penobscot River watershed.

The Habitat Blueprint builds on the landmark efforts of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, the non-profit organization established to implement the Penobscot River Restoration Project. The Penobscot Restoration has opened the mainstem of the River by removing the Great Works and Veazie dams and is building a bypass at the Howland dam while maintaining energy production. This effort greatly improves access to nearly 1000 miles of habitat.

The Blueprint seeks to further the benefits of the Penobscot River Restoration by ensuring that the many of the tributaries and ponds in the watershed are accessible for the fish and other aquatic wildlife that need to reach these waters. These areas are fragmented by 1,854 undersized culverts, dams and other barriers. Addressing this is crucial if Penobscot River and bay are to realize the full potential of a restored ecosystem, including reviving the region’s traditional fishing heritage and waterfront communities.

Eleven species of migratory fish use the Penobscot River as a spawning or nursery area, including several considered endangered or rare: Atlantic salmon, shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon, alewife and rainbow smelt. For two centuries, dams and other barriers contributed to the loss of more than 90 percent of these fish populations, which once supported valuable sustenance and commercial fisheries, including fisheries for marine species like Atlantic cod that preyed on sea-run fish.

Jeremy Bell
River and Coastal Restoration Director
The Nature Conservancy in Maine


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