ORRINGTON, Maine - Work on replacing the deteriorating Meadow Dam with a new fishway dam is under way and will be completed this fall, Orrington Town Manager Carl Young said Friday.
“All the in-stream work has to be done by the 30th of September,” he said. “The final completion date on the project is 30th of October.”
Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield and its subcontractor, Thibodeau and Sons, began work at the site Monday and spent the week removing materials from behind the old dam that is being removed, opening up a channel to divert water away from the dam, and drilling holes for rebar for the fishway dam.
The fishway dam will look like natural rapids created by a pile of brook rocks and will allow fish to pass, which was not possible with the hydroelectric dam it is replacing.
The new dam will have a hidden solid dam wall underneath the rocks to regulate water levels. Fish blocked from traveling upstream by the old dam include alewives and endangered Atlantic salmon.
The fishway “will naturally regulate itself & and the wetland [water levels] will stabilize,” Young said.
This will attract even more wildlife, he said.
Cianbro has pledged $67,735 in work to offset the effects of constructing a bulkhead on the Penobscot River as part of its Eastern Manufacturing Facility in Brewer.
“When they removed the debris behind the existing dam, it exposed even more deterioration” than was thought to exist, Young said. “The whole bottom of the dam was missing.”
Pomeroy Logging of Hermon is constructing the fishway for $169,300 and expects to finish “long before” the deadline, Young said.
The town is purchasing the materials and the public works department has been on-site clearing debris and doing other jobs to keep costs down, the town manager said.
Orrington acquired the Meadow Dam for nonpayment of taxes after Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill in Brewer closed in 2004. Soon after, town leaders learned it would cost approximately $189,000 to repair the leaking dam.
At that time, work began to find alternatives for fixing or replacing the dam and a local biologist suggested the fishway dam as a way to restore the area to a more natural state and increase use by fish.
“Our target price was equal to fixing the old one,” Young said.
Soon residents will be able to watch the construction. A solar-powered webcam is expected to be mounted on a tree next week, Young said.
A link to the webcam will be available at the town’ s Web site: http://orrington.govoffice.com.