Mussel men (and women) wanted for Penobscot relocation effort

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust marked another milestone last week when an earthen cofferdam at the Veazie Dam site was breached, allowing water to flow naturally.

The expected result: The water level above the dam has dropped significantly.

Volunteers are needed for a mussel-relocation effort that is being mounted above the site of the Veazie Dam, which is being removed as part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project. (BDN photo by John Holyoke)

And that means that there’s plenty more work to be done … and the PRRT is looking for the help of interested volunteers.

The drop in water level has left (or will leave) thousands of freshwater mussels high and dry, and teams of volunteers are working to relocate those mussels and put them back where they belong: In the water.

Cheryl Daigle, the PRRT’s community liaison and outreach coordinator, contacted me this week to ask for some help.

“We continue to need assistance moving freshwater mussels to deeper water along the Eddington and Veazie shorelines as the impoundment (pond) behind the Veazie Dam site continues to go down,” Daigle wrote in an email.

The most common mussel that is being relocated is the elliptios mussel, according to Daigle, but rare yellow lampmussels are also a concern.

And while the PRRT is looking for help, the job might not be appropriate for everyone, Daigle said.

“Most areas we will be moving mussels require walking along some difficult terrain (rocky and sloped shoreline, some muddy areas),” Daigle wrote. “Volunteers will be working along a beautiful stretch of the Penobscot River as we help these creatures that help keep our river clean and provide food for the wildlife we enjoy watching.”

Volunteer mussel-movers will meet at the Eddington boat launch on Route 178 at 8:30 a.m. each day through next week, Daigle said. Workers will be relocating mussels until 5 p.m., but Daigle said those who only have a half day or a couple of hours are welcome to help.

“It is helpful for us to know when [volunteers] expect to arrive so we can either have someone meet you or give you walking directions to the most critical site close to the boat launch,” Daigle said.

Daigle’s checklist for prospective mussel-movers:

  • Sturdy closed-toed shoes, old sneakers or boots are essential. Broken glass and metal may be on the riverbank.
  • Sunscreen, bug spray, sun hats, sunglasses, and water to drink.
  • Realize that you will get muddy. Bringing a change of clothes or a towel is a good idea.
  • Dress warmly.

Daigle said the PRRT will provide refreshments for those who volunteer.

If you’re interested in helping out, contact Cheryl Daigle at 232-9969 or Dylan Cookson at 416-4952.

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John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.