Environmental group is removing dam to restore Sullivan salt marsh

Published: Sep. 18, 2018 at 5:03 PM EDT
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Saving a salt marsh and the species within it.

That's the mission of an environmental group working to remove a dam that's been in place in Sullivan for decades.

"Essentially, salt marshes provide the basis of the food chain all the way out into the marine environment and to have a connection with that gives me goosebumps. It's hard to explain."

Shri Verrill has made habitat restoration her life's mission. Removing this dam in Sullivan is her latest project with the Downeast Salmon Federation. The dam blocks nutrient flow between fresh and salt water ecosystems causing bird and wildlife populations to decline because of a lack of food.

"It was built in 1967 by the Watsons because they wanted a trout pond."

After extensive research, the environmental group has found areas along the coast of Washington and Hancock Counties in dire need of restoration, like this spot where the dam has blocked water flow from Smelt Brook into Smelt Cove. They've purchased the land and are now working to help improve the multiple number of declining species.

"We will be restoring fish passage, we will be restoring the tide, and we will be restoring salt marsh. It's just amazing. I don't have kids, and I feel like the rivers and streams are my children, and to be able to say, you know, I nurtured the healing of the stream is pretty fantastic," she says.

They will be using the large granite stones to build a permanent outdoor classroom to share with others.

"It was cut in Sullivan. And, we're going to move it up out of the damn and make a space for students from Sumner High School to come down and for others who want to visit the cove here to sit, study together. We think it will be a great place for students to come and see what happens when you let the ocean back in where it wants to go and let the river do what it wants to do, and they can watch this place change and the fish come back," says Brett Ciccotelli, a fisheries biologist with Downeast Salmon Federation.

The dam removal is expected to be finished in the next couple of days.