Public-private partnership helps fund sustainability project with tribes

Posted June 05, 2012, at 10:38 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Two Native American tribes are collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a project that will address wildlife and sustainability issues in the Saint John River watershed.

News of the partnership was announced late last week by The Maine Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, the only voluntary public-private partnership in which corporations and nongovernmental organizations join forces with federal, state and local agencies to restore aquatic habitats, including wetlands, and to support associated educational programs.

The Maine CWRP, led by member Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline, is partnering with the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, their First Nations counterpart in Canada, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address wildlife and sustainability issues where the Meduxnekeag River near Houlton connects with the St. John River in Woodstock, New Brunswick.

“We look forward to collaborating with the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians on the Saint John River project,” said William C. Penney, president of Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline. “This initiative embodies the goals of CWRP to restore and revitalize critically important aquatic resources that will benefit generations of Maine people.”

John Mackenzie, founder and advisor of CWRP, said Tuesday that the initiative will use more than $100,000 for a feasibility study to be done this year to determine what is necessary to increase wild Atlantic salmon returns, maintain genetic stocks and improve habitat conditions in the St. John River watershed.

The study will determine project needs, which could include removing dams, expanding a live gene banking program, and placing hatcheries and rearing facilities in the river.

Mackenzie said that this initiative is one of more than 47 projects that the agency has supported in the state.

“The project was slated to begin last year, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “The initial phase will cost more than $100,000 and the second phase will be more costly, depending on what has to be done.”

Mackenzie said that the Atlantic salmon population has declined due to factors such as restricted access upstream, in part due to the construction of dams and fish ladders. The velocity of water falling over the ladders sometimes becomes so great that it washes fish back downstream or exhausts them so that they cannot continue their journey upriver.

Spectra Energy is the majority partner in the Maine CWRP. Pat Hester, chair of Spectra Energy, said Tuesday that CWRP has mainly conducted projects on the coast and focused on coastal wetlands. They have removed dams in the Penobscot River and in 2008 helped put a new rock ramp fishway in place in Sedgeunkedunk Meadow and Fields Pond in Orrington to allow fish to travel up Sedgeunkedunk Stream.

Hester said that the CWRP often serves as the “necessary piece of the funding puzzle” that then allows eligible projects to receive matching federal money.

Both Hester and Mackenzie said they are excited to see the projects begin.

Since its inception in 1999, the CWRP has preserved, restored, enhanced and protected more than 64,000 acres of wetlands and 1,000 stream miles.

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