Royal River Restoration Fund and Water Quality

“As an organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of all natural resources in the Royal River watershed, Royal River Conservation Trust stands firmly for the restoration the Royal River to a free-running stream by the removal of both the Bridge Street dam and the East Elm Street dam in Yarmouth, and offers its support to the Town of Yarmouth and others to work thoughtfully but deliberately towards that goal.”  RRCT Board of Directors, unanimously, May 2018.

In January 2021, Yarmouth’s Town Council voted unanimously to study the removal of both obsolete dams!  Scroll further below for the precise wording of the Council resolution.

RRCT’s work toward removal of both of the dams owned by the Town of Yarmouth is aligned with the adopted positions of Trout Unlimited (Sebago Chapter), Maine Rivers, and the Earth Stewardship Team of First Parish Church (UCC). This document captures the positions of each of the four organizations.

RRCT’s work toward dam removal is under the umbrella of the citizen-led Royal River Alliance (RRA).  The RRA has a website here, and a Facebook page here. The RRA website increasingly is the go-to source for recent documents, frequently asked questions, and more.

In early 2021, RRCT and the RRA created the Royal Restoration Fund: “To fund studies and projects and community engagement efforts supporting the improvement of the health and ecology of the Royal River and its watershed, most particularly the restoration of migratory sea-run fish passage along the river through the removal or modification of Yarmouth’s two dams.”  If you are interested in donating this fund, contact RRCT staff or  RRCT’s donation page allows dedicated donations — just check the box.

MOST RECENT DOCUMENTS:

KEY EDUCATIONAL DOCUMENTS:

Scroll below for many more documents and links to source material regarding water quality and river restoration issues in the watershed, roughly chronological. Please send to us additional documents or links that you think should be published or archived here to assist various students, informal working groups, planners, or researchers. RRCT has saved many miles of shoreline, but we must do more.

The photos above are from the 2016 and 2018 “World Fish Migration Day” celebrations on the Royal, organized every two years and supported by a dozen local organizations to connect people and communities to fisheries and the Royal River.

MORE LINKS AND ALL DOCUMENTS (most recent first):

FERC decision regarding Bridge Street dam (Sparhawk), April 2020.  FERC removed all future scenarios of hydropower generation at Bridge Street-Sparhawk.

Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) correspondence with the Town of Yarmouth (September 5, 2019).  “DMR would like to clarify that we do not recommend or intend on repairing or fixing the existing fishways in their current state.”

Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) correspondence with the Town of Yarmouth (November, 2018).  See the companion letter, below, from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (DIFW) in 2011.

Factory Island back-channel analysis (September 2018):  This short analysis describes and analyzes the “Rolling Stones” project completed in 2012 on the Factory Island Back-Channel.  USFWS October 2017 discussion of this channel is referenced within this analysis, and also detailed as one part of a much larger now out-dated USFWS letter (2017).

The State of the River, Session I:  Water Quality/Nitrogen, March 16, 2018.  This panel presentation convened by the Royal River Conservation Trust and the Royal River Alliance in March 2018 included four presentations regarding (especially) recent nitrogen testing on the Royal River, Cousins River, the Estuaries, and Casco Bay. Here is a Forecaster article summarizing the event.  Here is a video (click through to “public forums”) which recorded most (but not all) of the event. The four powerpoints are provided here. Casco Bay Wide Context, Curtis C. Bohlen, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. Water Quality 2005 to 2017, Ivy Frignoca, Friends of Casco Bay. Preliminary Estimates of Tributary Nitrogen Load to Casco Bay, Maine: Royal River, Dr. Damian Brady and Whitley Gray, University of Maine. 2016, 2017 Estuarine Water Quality and Modeling in the Royal and Cousins Rivers, Angela Brewer and Robert Mohlar, Division of Environmental Assessment, Bureau of Water Quality, Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Royal River Fish Passage Studies Summary (January 2018): The consulting firm GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., worked to summarize in twelve pages in plain English many of the studies that are posted in their entirety on this page, below. This two-page fact sheet is GZA’s summary of GZA’s summary.

Fishway Assessment and Cost Analysis Report (January 2018):  This report by the consulting firm Inter-Fluve is a technical report on alternatives (do nothing, dam removal, fish passage) at Bridge Street and East Elm Street. Importantly, readers of this report should supplement it with the October 2017 USFWS analysis of Middle Falls & Factory Channel posted below.

TNC and DEP sediment analysis at Bridge Street (November 20, 2017): TNC and DEP conclude that the Bridge Street impoundment is relatively clean. See related Press Herald 2016 story, posted below. And here is the November 24, 2017, Portland Press Herald follow-up story. And here is the full source report from Stantec, commissioned by The Nature Conservancy March 16, 2016.

USFWS Analysis Regarding Fish Passage at Middle Falls (October 2017): “With a few days work, Factory Channel could be made an effective fish bypass of Middle Falls.”

Lewiston Sun Journal Article on Brandy Brook fish passage (September 2017): Royal River Alliance partners helped improve fish passage in New Gloucester, on Brandy Brook, to improve wild trout habitat.

Royal River Alliance correspondence with USFWS, FERC filing (March 2017): Royal River Alliance leaders asked USFWS to analyze effective fish passage at the Bridge Street (Sparhawk) dam.

Fish Ladders on U.S. Dams Are Not Effective (April 2013): Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Friends of Casco Bay water quality monitoring (2017):  Friends of Casco Bay’s (FOCB’s) website includes recent water quality information in Yarmouth harbor, Cousins River, Cousins Island, and more. This FOCB 2017  summary page describes some of the specific data from Friends of Casco Bay testing on the Royal River estuary and Cousins River estuary, sites with water quality results of concern.  (Check FOCB’s webpage for more recent data and reports.)

Watershed maps — climate change focus areas (2019):  These map illustrates areas of the Royal River watershed and Casco Bay that The Nature Conservancy identifies as highly “resilient” for ecology in climate change scenarios.  Priority areas above and below the dams are disconnected, due to the dams.

Watershed map — conserved lands (2021): This map illustrates all conserved lands in the watershed, key trails, and more.

Watershed map — why so muddy (2016):  This map illustrates the extent of “Presumpscot Clay” soils, which give the Royal River its characteristic chocolate brown siltation, a naturally occurring event irrespective of pollution or development.  The upper reaches of the watershed include spring-fed lakes and vast clean aquifers supporting Poland Spring, fish hatcheries, and clear bubbling trout streams.

Watershed map — fish passage (2016):  This map illustrates sea-run fishery restoration potential upriver in Pownal, New Gloucester, Freeport, and other towns, were Yarmouth’s dams to provide or maintain or restore effective fish passage.

Focus Area of Statewide Ecological Significance (2016):  The Royal River estuary, the Cousins River estuary, and broad sections of Casco Bay and its shoreline are part of a focus area of statewide ecological significance identified by Maine DIFW and others.

Maine Rivers Royal River Restoration Project (2016): Maine Rivers’ website includes many recent reports and press articles on sediment sampling, hydrofluvial geomorphology, dam alternatives, fisheries, and more.

Casco Bay Estuary Partnership (2016): CBEP has recently published Casco Bay Plan 2016-2021 with specific findings and recommendations following its 2015 State of the Bay report, focusing on a range of watershed, land protection, coastal, and land use issues.

A healthy Gulf of Maine goes with the flow of a restored Royal River.  Portland Press Herald, by Arthur Bell (Nov 2016)

Portland Press Herald article on Royal River pollutants, dams, hydropower, and fish passage (2016)

Chandler Brook, River Herring Habitat Assessment (2015)

Cole Brook (Gray), Aquatic Life Classification Attainment Report (2015)

Hatchery Brook (Gray), Royal River (Gray), Libby Brook (Gray), Acquatic Life Classification Attainment Reports (2015)

Comparison of building setbacks in shoreland zoning ordinances in New Gloucester, North Yarmouth, Pownal, and Yarmouth (2015)

Royal River Fish Passage (Map, Dams, Catchments, Barriers) (2013)

Memorandum summarizing McKin Superfund Site history and status (2013)

Portland Press Herald opinion article by Royal River Conservation Trust (2013)

Town of Yarmouth Stormwater Management Plan (2013)

Royal River DEP Biological Monitoring Program Aquatic Life Classification Attainment Report (2012)

Royal River Estuary EPA Waterbody Quality Assessment report (2012)

Maine DIFW Letter to Town of Yarmouth supporting dam removal (2011)

USGS Simulation of Streamflow in the Royal River using watershed models (2010)

Town of Yarmouth’s Royal River Corridor Master Plan (2008)

Moose Brook in Auburn Watershed Survey (2007)

Royal River Conservation Plan, Royal River Conservation Trust (2005)

Article – Do the Rivers, Streams and Estuaries in Casco Bay Watershed Meet State Water Quality Standards (2005)

Libby Brook (Gray) Implementation Plan (2003)

Libby Brook (Gray) Watershed Survey Final Report (2002)

Recurrence Intervals for Historic Droughts, Royal River, 1950-2002

Royal River Watershed, Water Quality Monitoring Report, Friends of the Royal River, 1993-1999 (2001)

EPA Casco Bay – Royal River Watershed Fact Sheet (2000)

GPS location of Residential, Recreational, and Significant Vegetation Areas (1999)

DEP memo on Royal River uses to McKin Superfund Site File (1999)

DEP handwritten notes re URR Observed River Uses (1998)

Royal River Watershed Water Quality Management Plan, CCSWCD (1998)

DEP Royal River Estuary Waste Load Allocation (DRAFT, 1996)

GPCOG Royal River Watershed Management Plan (DRAFT, 1991)

GPCOG Cousins River study, 1990

FERC and USFWS exemption memoranda, Old Sparhawk Mill (1984 and 1985)

DMR Fisheries Restoration study (1958) and correspondence (1975)

Fisheries of the United States (1887, excerpts)

Laws of Maine, Royal River fish passage required (1834, transcribed)

Laws of Maine, Royal River fish passage required (1834, original text)