Orange River

In 2016, the Downeast Salmon Federation acquired a historic mill site and home in Whiting and plans have been underway to renovate this notable home and improve the heritage fishery in the center of this beautiful New England village. There is considerable potential for this prominent corner in the center of Whiting and the river that runs through it. Fish passage restoration in the Orange River will rejuvenate river herring populations (alewife and blueback) and other sea-run fish such as shad, Atlantic salmon, eels, lamprey, and brook trout. A healthy fishery will revitalize the ecosystem and provide a source of recreation and income for local fishermen.

The idea of creating fish passage on the Orange River is not new. An 1869 report from the Commissioners of Fisheries states: “This small river was once well peopled with salmon and alewives, and shad are mentioned in an act for protection in 1828. Three dams built near the head of tide, completely destroyed the salmon, and the alewives were so reduced that not more than a dozen were taken yearly. In 1861 a movement was begun by W. S. Peavey, Esq., and others of Whiting, to restore the fish. Fishways were that year built over the dams, and 31 alewives were placed in the lakes at the head of the river. The numbers of fish have since been yearly as follows: From 1862-1864, very few; in 1865 and ‘66 increasing; in 1867 very abundant, crowding the fishways all day long.”

These fishways have long since disappeared and so have the migratory fish and the benefits they once provided. Our next step has been to hire an engineering team to work with DSF biologists and our partners to complete a feasibility study on the dam to explore any and all costs related to providing adequate fish passage. We have contracted Wright-Pierce to conduct the engineering study on the Orange River and we now have the results from their first deliverable.

Here is the executive summary and assessments with recommendations given by Wright-Pierce: SUMMARY Whiting Mill Pond Dam

There is more information to come from Wright-Pierce under additional deliverables such as fish passage alternatives and a water supply alternative analysis for fire suppression.

This process of restoration will take time to complete. If you have any questions or would like to contribute to the project, please call (207)255-0676 or email