VASSALBORO — The Alewife Restoration Initiative group will meet 6 p.m. Monday in the Grange hall to discuss the upcoming weeks of a project that involves removing a mill and relocating water pipes at Outlet Stream in an effort to restore the alewife population in the area and China Lake.

“We’d like (the meeting) to be informative and constructive,” said Maine Rivers Executive Director Landis Hudson, who also said the coalition is seeking input from the community. Maine Rivers is one of seven groups that make up ARI.

The group plans to relocate the waterline of the East Vassalboro Water Co., which has piping along Outlet Stream, affecting 85 customers and 200 people, Hudson said The group also plans to tear down the Masse sawmill, which has been falling apart for decades and poses a safety threat, as it could collapse into the stream and onto the water pipes, Hudson said. A historic grist mill will be preserved, but the rest has to be taken down. This work should begin shortly, she said.

The ARI is also in the process of completing a permit application for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection after an initial application to remove the Masse Dam was rejected. The DEP requested more information from the alewife restoration group, asking specifically for more public input.

The alewife group still is moving forward with the project and recognizes that it probably will take several years to restore China Lake and Outlet Stream fully to their original states.

This is just one part of a push potentially to restore 1 million alewives to China Lake every year.

Alewives are baitfish that grow to be about 11 to 12 inches long and are eaten by nearly every other marine fish, mammal and bird. They are also a common lobster bait.

The small fish spends most of its life in the ocean, returning inland each year to spawn. Young alewives spend their first months in freshwater lakes and ponds, where they soak up phosphorous and eat blooming algae before heading out to the ocean. Some studies suggest that alewives can improve water quality, which would be a welcome change to China Lake, a body of water that has suffered from elevated phosphorous levels and algae in recent years.

Some residents oppose the Masse Dam removal, saying it will take away ponds in the area and hurt property values, and also could affect adversely other wildlife that has grown used to living with dams. Some are worried that their backyards, now overlooking Mill Pond, will turn into mud holes. Protesters concerned about the removal marched June 30 near the dam on Main Street, about a week before ARI had planned to lower water levels in preparation for the dam removal.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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