The Mousam River
The Mousam River watershed contains 349 miles of river and streams, and drains a total area of about 117 square miles. It covers portions of the towns of Acton, Shapleigh, Waterboro, Sanford, Alfred, Lyman and Kennebunk.
Large annual migrations of sea-run fish – Atlantic salmon, alewife, American shad, blueback herring, rainbow smelt, striped bass, tomcod, sea lamprey and American eel – persisted for millennia in the Mousam watershed prior to the construction of dams and the industrialization of the river. Today, the Mousam has the dubious distinction of being the largest river system in Maine completely lacking in fish passage. This is despite the fact that many of these vital fish species – particularly American shad, alewives, and blueback herring – still persist in the lower river.
Each of the species of sea-run fish plays an important role in our freshwater and marine environments. They are a source of food for larger fish, birds and wildlife, and they transport marine-derived nutrients into the freshwater environment. In addition, many of these species are economically important, be it for direct recreational or commercial fisheries, for their importance to the lobster industry as a source of bait, or for the Gulf of Maine’s fishery for cod, haddock and other ground fish that depend on these smaller species as a significant food source.
The Mousam and Kennebunk Rivers Alliance (MKRA) was founded in 2008 to improve the ecological health of the Mousam and Kennebunk River watersheds, from the headwaters to the ocean. MKRA is focused on improving water quality, restoring and enhancing native fisheries, and encouraging people to appreciate the uniqueness and vitality of the river environment.
Kennebunk Light and Power owns and maintains the first 3 dams on the Mousam. These dams are operating under license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that will expire in 2022. Decades ago, these dams were a significant source of electricity, but today they are antiquated and inefficient, producing less than 1% of the power used by ratepayers. They have become a bad investment for ratepayers, and have seriously damaged the health of one of the greatest natural resources in the Kennebunk region. The license renewal process must be initiated by March, 2017, and KLPD has recently stated that they plan not to renew their license. The electricity the Hydro Power generates at the 3 dams is proving to be more expensive than the power KLPD can purchase on the open market. The fate of the Dams is still very much in question.