WINTERPORT, Maine — Part of a small but ecologically important tributary of the Penobscot River is getting a face-lift this week, and the results should benefit both the stream’s aquatic inhabitants and residents of Winterport.
Each spring and after heavy rains throughout the year, the tiny and meandering stream known as Cove Brook overwhelms a culvert that runs beneath Meadow Road in Winterport. Occasionally, the waters actually push the culvert downstream, thereby forcing town crews not only to rebuild part of Meadow Road but also to pull the culvert back into place.
These regular floods and washouts are an inconvenience to residents who use Meadow Road as a shortcut between Routes 1A and 69 and are a financial burden to the town.
But the washouts and resulting stream sedimentation also are damaging to aquatic life in Cove Brook, which is — or once was — home to one of eight Atlantic salmon populations protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Sedimentation in the water as a result of road washouts fills in the nooks and crannies on the bottom of the stream that trout, salmon and other species need to spawn and survive.
Crews working at the site this week hope to solve that persistent problem.
Members of the Cove Brook Watershed Council worked with town officials from Winterport to apply for grants to replace the problem-plagued culvert. The council, which is a local conservation organization, has received more than $90,000 in grants while the town is chipping in about $60,000 to the project.
Other partners in the project are the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Project S.H.A.R.E. and the University of Maine.
“If there is one message to take away it’s that this is a very cooperative effort,” said Joseph Zydlewski, a member of the Cove Brook Watershed Council. Zydlewski’s wife, Gayle, has spearheaded the project.
On Wednesday, an excavator was busy digging out the deformed, corrugated metal tube that ran beneath Meadow Road. The metal pipe, which measured about 3 feet tall by 5 feet wide, will be replaced by a large metal arch that will support the road above and allow Cove Brook to flow freely underneath.
Wild brook trout that live in the stream as well as Atlantic salmon, if they ever return to these former spawning grounds, will be able to swim through a channel with a natural stream bottom rather than through a narrow, often obstructed tube with fast-moving water.
Winterport plans to pave Meadow Road and Old Cove Road, something that would have been impossible before because of the constant flooding.
Town Manager Phillip Pitula said the community has spent about $40,000 on gravel alone to rebuild the road at the site since 2001. That figure does not include the value of materials donated by local gravel companies, he said.
“It’s a very cost-effective opportunity for the town to rid ourselves of this problem and to allow residents to use the road year-round,” Pitula said.
Zydlewski said he expects crews to complete work on the new culvert this week.