About Page

This blog follows the activities of The Stream Restoration / Alewife Project.

A Collaboration among the Eighth Grade of St. George School, the St. George Conservation Commission (town government)

Our essential questions 2018-2019:

  • Why don’t we have a sustainable alewife run?
  • What changes should be made to improve fish passage in the stream?
  • Why do people care about the return of alewives in Tenants Harbor and in other communities?

During the spring of 2016, the eighth grade class was able to:

  • Observe the first returning alewives in over 30 years! (May 25th, 2016)
  • Over several days, netted and placed into the marsh 10 adult alewives from Ripley Creek.
  • Document the stream flows out of the marsh during the spring.
  • Document habitat changes in the marsh and Ripley Stream / Creek since the 1980’s.
  • Record the oral histories of communities members as primary sources of information about the marsh and the stream.
  • Visit the Damariscotta Fish Ladder and Warren fish weir.
  • Make recommendations to the town to improve fish passage, which the town in part adopted in December of 2016, to create a series of pools as in a “nature-like” fishway design.

During the spring of 2018, the students were able to:

  • Work with The Nature Conservancy scientists and help sample GIS stream survey data. We also analyzed that data in later months to create a “longitudinal depth map” from the measurements to display the “rise and run” of the stream bed.
  • We visited the Damariscotta Fish Ladder and the Warren fish Weir.
  • Observe and net two adult alewives from Ripley Creek into the marsh (June 12, 2018)
  • Improve a “resting pool” by channeling and containing water flow in the middle length of Ripley Creek with sandbags.
  • Create a fish ladder with a minimum flow of water we believe alewives could swim up at any point of the tide cycle.
  • Documented flooding tides with salt water intrusion into the marsh.
  • Calculated and observed that under the conditions that spring, a 10.3 foot tide would flow over the dam.
  • Documented salinity of 3.5-4 ppt on June 14th, 2018.

Overview: Alewives are a fish that used to be very plentiful along the coast of Maine in the springtime. Every May, adult fish would come in from the ocean and return to fresh water lakes and ponds to breed. The eggs would hatch in the fresh water lakes and ponds, grow to a small minnow before they too would head out to sea at the end of that summer or early fall. The young alewives would live and grow to adulthood in the ocean and then four years later, begin to migrate to their birth waters in the spring to start another cycle of alewife reproduction.

Nearly every stream that ran into the ocean, all along the coast, from New Brunswick Canada south through the Mid-Atlantic States, saw bountiful runs of alewives. In the 1970s, the alewife was the most valuable commercial anadromous fishery (salt water fish that breed in fresh water) in Maine with commercial harvests exceeding 3.4 million pounds annually*. Today, there are very few healthy runs of alewives, in Maine or elsewhere. Dams and lack of “fish passage” have made most historic runs extinct.

Tenants Harbor used to have a run of alewives into the Marsh up until the 1970’s. At that time, the culvert under the road at Ripley Creek was replaced. It did not allow alewives the chance to swim upstream to pass from the tidal creek on one side of the road, up through to the marsh to breed.

Alewives used to be a focal point of communities each spring when the “run” was happening. Lobstermen have also used them for bait in the spring.   In Warren, money from alewife harvests paid for the building of the town’s fire station. In Damariscotta today, there is an alewife festival to attract people to celebrate and support conservation efforts, and to enjoy all the wildlife the fish attract when they come in from Great Salt Bay and swim up into Damariscotta Lake to breed. In nature, alewives play an important role in the ecology of waters where they live and breed, playing a vital role in food webs and water quality.

Starting in 2009, St. George’s Conservation Commission has been supporting efforts to restore the run of alewives in the Marsh. Every spring during 2009-2013, the Department of Marine Resources has brought five hundred alewives to the marsh. St. George students netted the fish from the tank on the back of the fish truck and passed the net along, student to student, down over the bank from the parking area into the waters of the marsh.

By 2013, everyone was waiting to see if the fish spawned in 2009 would return to the marsh to breed as adults. No fish showed up that spring in 2013. No fish showed up the next year, nor the next.

In the summer of 2015, the Department of Transportation replaced the culvert connecting the outlet of the marsh to Ripley Creek. In the spring of 2016, we saw the first native alewives since 1985. Ten fish were netted and moved over the dam.  About 30 others were seen in the culvert “between tides”, taking shelter in the pools of water between the weir sections of the culvert. In 2018, two alewives were seen and netted and placed in the marsh. This year, citizens of the town are hoping that more adult alewives will make their way in from the ocean and be able to continue to swim upstream, through the new culvert up into the Marsh and breed and begin a self-sustaining, natural run once more.

* Source: http://www.gma.org/undersea_landscapes/alewives/


Our Purpose:

  • (2016) To answer the question, “Is the spring flow of water through the culvert enough for fish to pass upstream into the marsh?” No one knows!
    • Measure the volume of water flowing out of the marsh and through the culvert during April and May
    • Analyze and display our data
    • Communicate our findings to the town’s Conservation Commission
  • To improve fish passage in the stream section
  • To “do” scientific research as we learn more about our run to aid the town’s conservation and stewardship efforts (Onging)
  • To capture oral histories in our community (Onging)
  • To actively participate in a larger community, learning and practicing leadership skills that can be used to strengthen and enrich educational and life experiences (Onging)
  • To feel a sense of pride of one’s contributions to our school and town community (Onging)


  • Oral Histories (formats may vary)
  • A formal science report of our data, analysis and conclusion
  • ELA “Writing to Inform”
  • Blog posts


2019 Essential Questions:

  • Why don’t we have a sustainable alewife run?
  • What changes should be made to improve fish passage in the stream?
  • Why do people care about the return of alewives in Tenants Harbor and in other communities?


Skills to develop:

  • Math and Science
  • Primary Research
  • Communication (Listening, writing, speaking) and Digital Multimedia (blogging, Oral History captures, Google Map)
  • Habits for Success: Responsibility, Collaboration and Perseverance



  • George Conservation Commission (town government)
  • St. George Historical Society
  • George School / Town of St. George (Celebration of Learning)
  • Natural Resources Council of Maine



Contact Alison England

St. George School, Tenants Harbor, ME


One thought on “About Page

  1. What a great project! I loved hearing the personal stories from the Fallas. I did not know that 5 generations of Fallas lived right in town. I am very interested to hear what you discover about the alewives. I am wondering if any towns in Maine have brought the alewives back. We have a camp on St.George Lake in Liberty and there are not as many fish as there used to be. Is that in part because of the decline in alewives?

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