SULLIVAN, Maine — For about $350,000, town and federal officials are hoping to fix two problems where Flanders Stream flows under Thorne Road.
The old culvert was failing, according to local Selectman Gary Edwards, and in heavy rains the swollen stream would flow over the road and eat away at the road embankment. And because of the configuration of the old culvert, when water flow was low, native fish species had problems making their way upstream from Frenchman Bay to Flanders Pond.
Now, with a new culvert and fishway being installed under the road, the erosion issue should be resolved, and alewives, elvers, smelt, lamprey and other species should be able to get back upstream to the pond.
“It never worked,” Edwards said Monday about the old fishway, which was built out of concrete and was pretty much navigable only to alewives. “This is going to make a huge difference.”
The old, rusting culvert was 12 feet in diameter and, on the downstream side of the road, there was a steep dropoff, according to Edwards. The old fishway came straight up the streambed at a steep angle into the middle of the old culvert.
The new culvert is wider than the old one by about five feet, and it is about 15 feet longer, sticking out from either side of the road to prevent fast-flowing water from eroding the road embankment. The project has included extensive groundwork on either side of the road where the stream flows underneath so the dropoff is not as steep and is more fish-friendly, he said.
Sandra Lary of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said Monday a series of weirs, some man-made out of rock, others fashioned out of concrete, have been laid out along the streambed on the downstream side of the road and under the road through the culvert. By swimming from one pool into the next, rather than having to fight against a long chute of flowing water, native fish species should have an easier time getting upstream, she said.
The last time the road had been reconstructed over the stream was in the 1950s or 1960s, Lary said, when the project resulted in the water flow being redirected over bedrock. Most fish, she said, just couldn’t make it under the road.
“It’s going to be completed probably this week,” she said.
Edwards said $400,000 had been budgeted for the project, which had been in the works for several years as entities tried to secure the funds to pay for it. R.F. Jordan & Sons of Ellsworth came in under bid for the project, he said, so it’s expected to cost around $350,000. The town’s share, he said, likely will be between $60,000 and $80,000.
According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife, the project restores fish access to 535 acres of lake habitat and three miles of river habitat.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.