Nequasset Fish Ladder Restoration

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Restoring the Nequasset Fish Ladder

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Nequasset Fish Ladder 1955 – 2014
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New, 2014 Nequasset Fish Ladder







“This restoration project has not only effectively improved this historic fishery and retained an important local economic asset, but has galvanized the local community. Hundreds of concerned citizens and a wide array of conservation organizations have been involved, and we’ve increased the awareness of and pride in this critical natural and cultural resource.” – Carrie Kinne, KELT executive director

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The Project –> View the NEW restoration video!

In 2014, the Nequasset Fish Ladder was rebuilt and restored to make the annual migration of alewives into Nequasset Lake possible for many years to come.  The Bath Water District, the Town of Woolwich, the Woolwich Fish Commission, the Woolwich Historical Society, and KELT worked together to rally community support, funding, and expertise.

The fish ladder makes it possible for alewives, fish that are key part of the foundation of the food chain in the Gulf of Maine, to reach Nequasset Lake to spawn.  The fish that spawn at Nequasset Lake have supported an historic alewife fishery at the Nequasset Dam site for hundreds of years.  Both the ladder and dam are important to the town’s infrastructure and culture.

How it all started…

Bath Water District Superintendent Trevor Hunt came to KELT in early 2011 with a plea for help: Could KELT help manage an appropriate restoration of the crumbling fish ladder at Nequasset Dam in Woolwich?   This restoration needed to ensure maximum fish passage and be easy for the Bath Water District crew to maintain.  The fish ladder is owned and maintained by the Bath Water District, and it is managed by the Woolwich Fish Commission.  KELT came on board to manage the project.

The Ladder

In 1955, a concrete pool and weir style of ladder was built at Nequasset Dam.  This design proved to be reasonably effective, allowing fish to successfully make the climb and enter Nequasset Lake.  The lake has 537 acres of optimal spawning habitat for alewives, a keystone species in the restoration of the Gulf of Maine.  By 2011, the concrete structure of this ladder was beginning to crumble.

Engineering and Construction

  • Engineering design was completed by Wright Pierce, with review by state, national, and university fish passage experts.
  • Construction was completed by the Woolwich based firm Atlantic Mechanical.

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The new ladder is similar in design to the old ladder because it was successful at attracting fish and getting them over the dam, but there are some important modifications.

(For images below, left = old and right = new)

– An additional pool was added to the lower section of the ladder to make the slope more gradual.
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– The pathway to the ladder and harvest pool was improved.
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– Durable aluminum baffles instead of wooden ones are used.
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– The design of the top section of the ladder that crosses the dam was changed to a denil style fishway in order to slow the speed of the water.

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Citizen Science

To increase knowledge and understanding of the Nequasset Lake alewife run, KELT started an annual volunteer fish count at Nequasset Dam in 2012.  The Woolwich Fish Commission keeps track of the amount of bushels that are harvested each year at Nequasset Dam, but until the fish count started, no one had any idea how many fish made it over the dam.  More than 200 fantastic volunteers have take part in this fish count.  Check out the fish count links at the top of this page if you are interested in taking part!

We plan to continue the volunteer fish count in 2015 and beyond. 
Click on the current year link at the top of this page to volunteer!

   counters2 counters 1 counters 3 Henry Heyburn at fish ladder sm


The Bath Water District, Maine Coastal Program, NOAA/Trout Unlimited, and individual private donors all provided funding to support design, construction, and outreach for the Nequasset Fish Ladder Restoration Project.

Thank you to all of the volunteers and partners who have supported the Nequasset Alewife Run and the Nequasset Fish Ladder Restoration!

Bath Water District                                    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Town of Woolwich                                     Woolwich Fish Commission
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service                        Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment
Maine Dept. of Marine Resources              Maine Coastal Program
Wright Pierce                                             Atlantic Mechanical
Woolwich Historical Society                       Trout Unlimited
Bates College                                            Bowdoin College
University of Southern Maine (USM)