Sandy River Biomonitoring

Project Name: Sandy River Dam Removal Fish Habitat Studies

Location: Sandy River, Madison, ME

Project Owner: Madison Electric Works

Client: NOAA Fisheries & Trout Unlimited

Services: Fish Baseline Study; Index of Biological Integrity (IBI); Fluvial Geomorphologic Study; Dam Removal Fish Habitat Restoration Studies

Project Summary: 

Removal of the Sandy River hydroelectric dam in Starks, Maine enhanced habitat connectivity for anadromous salmon and shad in an important tributary of the Kennebec River watershed, and also reestablished over four miles of riverine aquatic habitat. Conservation interests and fishery agencies supporting the dam deconstruction contracted Kleinschmidt to provide monitoring data to assess the relative success of the dam removal in restoring native fish resources and riverine habitat.

Prior to the dam removal, Kleinschmidt collected baseline biological data to serve as a benchmark in documenting the effect of removing the dam on the Sandy River fish community structure by applying US EPA IBI (Index of Biological Integrity) sampling methods and newly-emerging metrics. The survey represented the first application of the Barrier Removal Monitoring Criteria.

The data were collected in a manner so that post-removal monitoring could accurately duplicate the spatial and methodological sampling and thus provide a quantitative assessment of ecological changes resulting from the dam removal. Immediately after dam removal, Kleinschmidt also surveyed the intact bed profile, substrate and slope characteristics of the former impoundment, so that fluvial geomorphologic changes to the project area could subsequently be documented. Both surveys also gathered data in contiguous upstream and downstream reference sites. The survey provides data that will allow future monitoring to determine the rate, and extent to which removal of the Sandy River dam enhances habitat connectivity and allows river processes to form more favorable fluvial habitat conditions in the former impoundment area.