ARWC Environmental Planner Jeff Stern meets with members of the Western Maine Mountain Jeepers club Aug. 16, 2014 to discuss erosion control on jeep trails in the upper Sunday River Watershed. Western Maine – including the Sunday River – is home to the largest remaining intact habitat for eastern brook trout, a species that once flourished as far south as Georgia along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. But habitat destruction and fragmentation in recent decades have greatly reduced their range.
ARWC’s ongoing efforts to enhance brook trout habitat in recent years include identifying and removing barriers to brook trout movement and migration, and conducting a three-year experiment to study the effects of adding large woody debris to streams in order to improve habitat.
Western Maine Mountain Jeepers plays an important role in protecting headwater streams; the club routinely builds water bars to re-direct storm water runoff, which often transports sediment, away from streams. The club also applies mulch and grass seed to bare areas. In the picture below of the Jeepers who worked on the project , Jeff Stern is second from the left.
The Davis Conservation Fund paid for ARWC’s outreach efforts to the jeep club and state agencies that have a stake in managing the upper Sunday River’s recreational and resource amenities.
On September 5 and 6, 2013, ARWC and partners removed a remnant log driving dam on the Sunday River in Riley Township. This dam blocked brook trout movement up river to an estimated four miles of headwater streams as well as to the mainstem of the upper Sunday River itself. All of these waters have the potential to provide excellent brook trout habitat.
This removal project was a collaborative effort between ARWC, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, and Project SHARE. It was funded primarily by a grant from the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, a private-public partnership dedicated to improving and enhancing brook trout habitat throughout the eastern United States. The grant is administered by the Androscoggin Valley Soil & Water Conservation District in Lewiston.
ARWC and the Mollyocket Chapter of Trout Unlimited contributed funds as well as planning assistance.
Long ago, log driving dams were built on many rivers and tributary streams in western Maine to flush logs down from the mountains. Over time, most of these dams deteriorated to the point they no longer impede fish passage. Others washed away completely. But the base structure of this old log driving dam on the Sunday River remained remarkably intact. It created a three to four foot drop that spanned the width of the river, blocking fish movement. The site was identified as a priority for removal during a 2011 barrier assessment in the Sunday River and Bear River Watersheds conducted by ARWC.
Partners used two grip hoists to remove the dam, which was on the Mahoosuc Unit, public land that is managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks & Lands. As the impacts of global warming worsen, access to cooler waters in high elevation streams provides important refuge for brook trout from hot summer weather.