DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — State Rep. Paul Davis thinks the fish bypass planned for the Howland dam should be stopped and is organizing a meeting next month for others who feel the same way.
The Penobscot River Restoration Trust plans to install a bypass at the Howland dam and decommission that dam while removing dams in Veazie and Old Town as part of a $50 million project over the next three years. The project’s goal: to help Atlantic salmon, shad, alewives and other fish to migrate farther into northern and central Maine waterways.
Davis, R-Sangerville, lauds the goal of the environmental group, but said he fears that the bypass will also allow northern pike farther up the Penobscot and into other waterways.
“The northern pike is a huge fish that kills everything they come into contact with,” Davis said Friday. “The bypass will certainly bring them an awful lot closer to the waters we are concerned about, and Atlantic salmon can already get up in there [past Howland’s dam] anyway. They can make it over the dam.”
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit for the Howland project that was issued in 2010 acknowledged the potential for damage to native fish species should northern pike use the bypass to access the upper reaches of the Piscataquis River and the West Branch of the Penobscot River.
But it also said the “bypass channel operation should not result in any significant harm to resident fish resources provided that the applicant takes appropriate measures … to create and-or maintain barriers to the upstream movement of northern pike and other invasive fish at strategic locations in the Piscataquis River watershed.”
The Piscataquis County commissioners and the Millinocket Fin & Feather Club are among the organizations that disagree with the DEP finding and opposing the bypass.
Laura Rose Day, executive director of the river restoration group, could not be reached for comment Friday. She has said in the past that two state agencies involved with the trust effort are working together to apply best management practices to deal with invasive species.
The agencies have agreed to ensure that the current blockages are maintained at least in the short term and then would continue to cooperate on what should happen in the future, she said.
Howland Town Manager Jane Jones said she did not know when the group planned to start installing the bypass, but its construction easement lapses in December 2015.
Davis said the meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Dover-Foxcroft town office. He said that he and former state fisheries biologist Paul Johnson also will be there.