Dam Removal Success Stories

Saccarappa Dam - Westbrook, ME

The dam removal and fish passage at Saccarappa on the Presumpscot River was a hugely complex undertaking. The site had been taken from the Abenaki band of the Wabenaki in the 1700s, and soon became highly industrialized and altered. Restoring the site required: dam removal, natural passage and a denil fish ladder. 

The site is in the middle of downtown Westbrook. For over a hundred years the site was dominated by a turn of the century powerhouse and two concrete headwalls. Now the lower falls are as they were and the upper falls consist of a set of cascades in the eastern channel and a long set of rapids down the western channel. This has resulted in a beautiful set of cascades and rapids around an island that will be a public park. It has become much loved by citizens and downtown businesses. One restaurant has built a roof-top deck that overlooks the falls. 

Less expected was the beauty that the drop in the river level behind the dam has caused. Once breached it resulted in a drop of 7-8 feet. The banks were muddy but instantly began to green in. Within a few weeks the banks were fully green and very lush. Wildlife had begun to adjust. For hundreds of years this had due to the dams neither river or lake. Its vast runs of anadromous fish were killed off. 

Now the river is reborn - wildlife is more active. There are exposed ledges, sandbars and rapids and ripples where they had not been. Early morning as one enters the water for a downstream float one can feel the life of the river. It rolls and flows where it had not before. Along the bank years of erosion had fallen many trees. They are now newly exposed. The living trees once threatened and many leaning into the river have a greater grasp of the banks. One can hear the trickles of many springs that were once below the long still impoundment. One can feel the joy of a river revived. Visit presumpscotriver.org for more information and updates

Randall Mill Dam - Pownal, ME

On July 26, 2013 Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited combined with the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership to remove Randall Mill Dam on Chandler Brook, the Royal River’s largest tributary, located in Pownal. The project was a TU Embrace-a-Stream project. Maine TU Council provided additional funding support. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Coastal Program provided surveying support for the project, Maine Rivers assisted with project coordination. The contractor was Caribou Springs LLC.

A dam had been located on the site since 1796, and had supported both lumber and grist mills in its day. It had continued to operate into the 1950s. The mill itself quickly deteriorated – not a stick of the mill structure remained. The dam itself had been partially breached in the mid-1990s by high water. The project reconnected three miles of stream habitat to Chandler Brook and the main stem of the Royal River. Fish need to be able to freely move through watersheds to be able to reach spawning, nursery and feeding areas – and to survive low water conditions. 

Dam owner Fred Fauver said, “The dam no longer served any useful purpose, and was both a liability and an obstruction to the free movement of aquatic life up and down the watershed. The man-made obstruction has been removed, and we all can’t wait to see how Mother Nature details the now free-flowing stream.” It was gratifying to those who watched the removal to see small fish swimming upstream even before the heavy equipment had been loaded back onto the trucks. 

The stream quickly rechannelized and the margins revegetated by the fall. You can visit the site of the dam - it easily accessible from Lawrence Road in Pownal about 100 yards north of where the road crosses the brook near Upper Minot Road. A portion of the spillway was left in place to commemorate the dam and to illustrate how out-of-place the concrete structure was. 

Quoting from the Fall 2013 Sebago Chapter Newsletter: ”The Royal River watershed has such great potential: it even had an Atlantic salmon run before the lower river was dammed in the 1840s. The two head-of-tide dams in Yarmouth are about the worst thing that you can do ecologically to the river system. They are keeping sea-run fish out of the watershed and this impacts everything upstream. We hope the people of Yarmouth will be good stewards and decide that it’s time for their head-of-tide dams to go. Please talk to your friends in Yarmouth!”   

See the Portland Press Herald August 6, 2013 for more details.

Lombard Dam - Vassalboro, ME.

Lombard dam before dam removal (date unknown).

Lombard dam location immediately after removal, 2018.

Lombard dam location 2 years after removal, 2020.

Lombard dam impoundment before dam removal, 2018.

Lombard dam impoundment immediately after dam removal,  2018.

Lombard dam impoundment 2 years after dam removal, 2020.

Masse Dam - Vassalboro, ME

Masse dam before removal, 2016.

Masse dam location immediately after dam removal, 2017.

Masse dam location 3 years after dam removal, 2020.

Masse dam impoundment before dam removal, 2015.

Masse dam impoundment immediately after drawdown, 2016.

Masse dam former impoundment 3 years after drawdown, 2020.

West Winterport Dam - Winterport, ME

West Winterport Dam prior to dam removal, 2010.

West Winterport Dam after dam removal, 2010.

Edwards Dam - Augusta, ME

Great Works Dam - Bradley, ME

Potomac River Restoration, VA and MD