How the Smelt Hill Dam on Maine’s Presumpscot River finally met its demise last fall could serve as a sportsmen’s guide to making good things happen. This is no case study in green militarism a la Ed Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang. The lesson learned is how grassroots organizations can function within the system by working the convoluted corridors of the corporate world, state and federal agencies and private funding foundations. Many blocked rivers across the nation could see a restoration of fish passages by using the same smart deal brokering. In this case, the Maine Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) gathered enough money (through a combination of federal funds and grassroots fund-raising) to purchase and remove the dam. Under the leadership of executive director Pat Keliher the association worked with the Army Corps of Engineers and Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection to make the deal happen.
The project was scheduled for completion last fall. It opens seven miles of lower river, permitting the passage of shad, herring, alewives, smelt and, most of all, striped bass. Many small streams and feeder branches also become available for spawning.
Sportsmen should know that many dam owners are weighing the cost effectiveness of their facilities and may be open to the kind of brokering that leads to decommission.