Our Mission. Restore Megunticook's mission is to increase public awareness of the environmental, economic, and social issues facing the Megunticook River and its dams.
Our Vision.We envision a healthy Megunticook River and watershed free of relic dams with added fish passages to re-establish river connectivity, restore sea-run fish migration, improve ecosystem health, enhance climate and flood resiliency, and reduce taxpayer costs.
Beauty of a natural waterfall
The Issue.Flowing 3.5 miles from Megunticook Lake to Camden harbor, the Megunticook River has long been a cultural, ecological, and economic centerpiece of the historic Camden region. Unfortunately, the health of the river and its 32-square mile watershed is threatened by two main factors: relic dams and our changing climate.
Dams.Seven dams span the Megunticook River, largely built in the 19th century to power local industries. Four of these relic dams no longer serve any purpose. They raise flood risk, prevent sea-run fish migration, impair the health of the watershed, and require maintenance and repair.
Climate Change / Flooding. Rising temperatures in Maine have brought greater rainfall and brought more frequent heavy downpours. Around Camden, rainfall has grown by 16 inches in the last century. That’s 9 billion extra gallons of water falling within the Megunticook watershed every year. Over the next 30 years, rainfall is expected to rise an additional 9 inches, equal to 5 billion more gallons. This water must filter through Camden’s aging dams and narrow downtown drainage channel. Our dams and drainage system were not built to handle that much water, nor the increasingly heavy downpours.
Expert Advice.Assessing dam management options for the river has been the subject of extensive study and public comment. In 2021, the Town of Camden hired Inter-Fluve, a firm specializing in river restoration investigations and design, to assess it's alternatives. Their study found that removing the Montgomery Dam and the three dams above it (Knox Mill, Knowlton Street, and Powder Mill) would provide the “greatest benefits to fish passage, flood risk, ecological conditions, and resiliency including significantly reduced operation, maintenance and repair requirements.” The upper dams (East, West and Seabright) regulate water levels in Megunticook Lake and at Shirttail Point. They would not be removed.
Damage on Route 52in Camden
caused by heavy rains in October 2021
Ten Benefits of Dam Removal.
Allows two miles of the river to flow freely, reconnecting divided ecosystems
Improves oxygen and nutrient levels for fish, plants, and wildlife
Enables native fish including alewives and rainbow smelt to complete their Spring
migrations to the lake, which would attract eagles and seals, along with visitors to watch them
A healthier ecosystem makes the river and watershed more resilient to climate change
Reduces flood risk for 94 homes and properties
Allows for more consistent water levels in the lake and the river above Seabright Dam
Saves taxpayers millions of dollars in dam operation, repair, and likely flood damage
Creates recreation opportunities such as kayaking and hiking along the river
Improves sport fishing as more fish migrate up the river
Enhances the aesthetic value of the Megunticook watershed and Camden Harbor
The Falls.We care about the aesthetic value of the Montgomery Dam falls in Camden Harbor. Removing the damwill allow us to design a beautiful, natural 15-foot waterfall that could be just as iconic and picturesque as the current falls.
Olmsted Legacy. Frederick Law Olmsted’s sons designed Camden’s Harbor Park in the 1930s. A pioneer in sustainable design and conservation, Olmsted believed that parks should embrace and evolve with the surrounding ecology. Removing the Montgomery Dam would create a natural waterfall that reflects his vision. Historical markers at the falls could celebrate the dam’s history.
A possible design for the natural waterfall and park
The Vote and Public Engagement. The Select Board has applied for a federal grant to further assess infrastructure needs and design options, while closely engaging Camden residents throughout the process. Voters will have the final say about which options are chosen.
Funding.Federal grants for river restoration and climate resilience are currently available through the Infrastructure Bill, an incredible opportunity for Camden. This funding could also help us update our harbor infrastructure, which is threatened by rising sea levels and intensifying storms. To be eligible for the grants, though, we must remove the Montgomery Dam (or at least most of it) because removal is a vital step toward a healthier river.
Bottom Line.Our relic dam system prevents us from building a vibrant watershed and climate resilient future. Following the best available science and expert advice, we must come together as a community to make the right choices. These choices will enable our town to thrive economically and ecologically for its residents and visitors, current and future.