Restoring Maine’s Rivers

Student netting fishEcological and economic recovery and sustainability of the Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers, estuary and nearshore environment

Institutions: Bowdoin College, Bates College, University of Southern Maine
Sponsor: National Science Foundation through the Sustainability Solutions Initiative

The health of Maine’s rivers may be key to the future of the state’s commercial and sports fisheries—and to the economies of the communities that have relied on them. John Lichter, associate professor in the natural sciences at Bowdoin College, is leading an SSI team studying alewife restoration in the Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers, and the ecological and economic impacts of these efforts on fisheries and economies from the headwaters to the coast.

Why This Project?

Alewives are a key food source for cod, haddock, striped bass, and other important commercial and sport fisheries. Alewife populations have plummeted over the past century, however, due largely to human activity on rivers, including dams and pollution from factories.

Rumford FallsAs factories have closed and some dams have fallen into disuse, efforts to restore rivers to support alewives and other species are under way around the state, including on the Kennebec and Androscoggin. Little is known, however, about what determines the success or failure of these efforts or their larger effects.

Communities, agencies, and organizations need better information to weigh the potential costs or benefits of river restoration. The lack of such information can contribute to uncertainty and conflict over how to best manage natural resources.

Connecting Knowledge with Action

Lichter’s team is comparing restoration efforts on the Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers to examine the factors that influence success or failure, as well as the larger impacts of these efforts. The team’s findings will help communities and groups make more informed decisions about the costs and benefits of river restoration efforts. Findings also will contribute to a better understanding of the effects of river restoration on fisheries and economies at the basin and town scales.

Team Members

  • John Lichter, Bowdoin College (team leader)
  • Lynne Lewis, Bates College
  • Bev Johnson, Bates College
  • Ta Herrera, Bowdoin College
  • Phil Camill, Bowdoin College
  • Eileen Johnson, Bowdoin College
  • Karen Wilson, University of Southern Maine
  • Theo Willis, University of Southern Maine
  • Ted Ames, Penobscot East Resource Center

Project Partners


Supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.