River Restoration 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.

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.



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’s adopted goals include river restoration, clean water, and healthy acquatic ecosystems.  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.

ALL 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.

EMAIL PDF: Yarmouth Town Manager Nat Tupper in January 2020 summarizes, to the Town Council, the Army Corps of Engineers’ recently congressionally-authorized plans to begin study of two Royal River restoration proposals.

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).

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Notice of Intent, Clean Water Act (May 11, 2018).  CLF provided notice to Sparhawk Mill interests and Bridge Street Dam owners regarding argued violations of the Clean Water Act. The Forecaster discussed this litigation in a June 6, 2018 article.  The Press Herald discussed this litigation in a July 5, 2018 article.  The Sparhawk Mill owner responded in November 2018 with a formal petition to surrender (abandon) the FERC exemption (license) along with Appendices thus simplifying scenarios for the future of the dam. In December of 2018, various parties filed comments on the petition to surrender; here are the comments of the Town of Yarmouth and joint comments by Maine Rivers, Trout Unlimited Sebago Chapter, and the Conservation Law Foundation. In December 2018 Maine DIFW and USFWS each filed simple motions to intervene.

The State of the River, Session II:  Reconnecting, Wednesday, April 25, 2018.  Selected presentations included:

    • Bill Gregory and Art Bell, Yarmouth residents, Royal River Alliance members as Yarmouth First Parish Church (UCC)’s Earth Stewardship Team. The Church’s recent “manifesto” document titled The Royal River Watershed Needs Our Help calls attention to the current conditions of the river and its dams.  Bill’s recent column in the Press Herald reflects on the need for the river to heal.
  • Karyn Marden, member of the Abenaki community:  Personal and spiritual connections to the Royal

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.

Trout Unlimited Sebago Chapter correspondence to FERC and Yarmouth Town Council (November 9, 2017): Trout Unlimited’s correspondence may understate the role of local jurisdiction, and may inaccurately characterize the existence of hyrdopower negotiations. And here is Town Manager Nat Tupper’s November 14 analytical response to Trout Unlimited.

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.

Potential to expand hydropower in Maine dries up (Press Herald, February 6, 2015)  “After surveying 891 dams, however, the consultants found just 47 sites with the potential to generate additional electricity – a total of 56 megawatts. That is the equivalent of a large wind power facility in Maine and is just one-tenth of the full operating capacity of the gas-fired Calpine power plant in Westbrook.”   Yarmouth’s dams didn’t make the list.

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

Royal River Alliance correspondence with the Town of Yarmouth, FERC filing (Febuary 2017):  Royal River Alliance leaders filed commentary on the current status of FERC terms and conditions for the Bridge Street (Sparhawk) dam.

Town of Yarmouth correspondence to RRCT, and RRCT response (February 2017):  The Town Manager informed RRCT of ongoing interest by a hydropower developer, at Bridge Street (Sparhawk).

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.

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 (2016):   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)

Fish Passage: Royal River Conservation Trust correspondence with Town of Yarmouth June 2016

Memorandum from Yarmouth Town Manager to Town Council (Feb 2016): This memorandum covers topics including hydropower, fish passage, and state and federal jurisdiction.

Royal River Conservation Trust correspondence with Town of Yarmouth Feb 2016 and 2015

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 Signficant 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)