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Atlantic Salmon General Conservation Plan

  • Contact Us

    (Photo: Atlantic Salmon Federation) NOAA representatives work with the applicants one-on-one, to ensure the best options. Read More . . .

  • Interconnected Ecosystems

    As dams are removed or fish passage restored, habitat becomes available to anadromous fish and the watershed returns to a more natural state. Read More . . .

  • Applicant Eligibility

    Private dam owners within the geographic area of the endangered Atlantic salmon have obligations under the ESA. Read More . . .

  • What Does the GCP Do

    (Photo: Atlantic Salmon Commission) A General Conservation Plan can offer a comprehensive conservation strategy that benefits listed Atlantic salmon while working with private dam owners. Read More . . .

  • Dams as a Threat

    (Photo: Atlantic Salmon Commission) Dams impact endangered Atlantic salmon by blocking passage to their spawning habitat. Read More . . .

NOAA Fisheries Service invites you to participate in an Atlantic Salmon General Conservation Plan (GCP), developed for private dam owners in the State of Maine.  The GCP is a newly adopted plan which helps private dam owners comply with their obligations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) — by removing their dam to increase survival and assist in the recovery of federally endangered Atlantic salmon in the State of Maine.  This website is intended to provide guidance and information to assist private dam owners in the permitting process and to serve as a primary starting point for building partnerships and finding potential funding opportunities.

What is the Atlantic Salmon General Conservation Plan (GCP)?

A Downeast Maine Atlantic salmon river.  Credit: David Bean, NOAA

Starting in 2011, General Conservation Plans (GCPs) were being developed to assist private dam owners in response to the need for improving access to critical fish habitat to support the recovery of the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment (GOM DPS) of Atlantic salmon.  The primary goal of a GCP is to provide a mechanism to facilitate dam removal and fish passage improvements in order to increase access to quality aquatic habitat for Atlantic salmon and other diadromous fish.   There are three GCP documents, each covering a separate Salmon Habitat Recovery Unit (SHRU); for the Penobscot, Merrymeeting, and Downeast watersheds of Maine.

Each GCP is designed to promote long-term conservation efforts through the implementation of conservation strategies that improve fish passage; thereby, enabling Atlantic salmon to reach freshwater spawning and rearing habitat which is critical to their survival.  Each GCP includes guidelines for acquiring Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) for individual owners and operators of non-federally licensed dams within the GOM DPS.  Also included in all the GCPs are approved best management practices and conservation strategies to avoid and minimize incidental take to the maximum extent practical.

Little River dam removal.  Credit: Atlantic Salmon Federation

An ITP authorizes the permit holder a small level of incidental take in order to implement the activities described in a GCP. Because a GCP meets the regulatory and statutory requirements of the ESA, it effectively streamlines the ITP process for qualified private dam owners.

NOAA is encouraging your participation in a GCP for removal of a dam.

Each GCP creates an opportunity for collaboration between private citizens and the federal government. The goal is to work with private dam owners, state, federal and tribal agencies, along with interested stakeholders and non-government organizations to find cost effective ways to reconnect fragmented habitat by removing dams, so Atlantic salmon and other species can reach critical spawning and rearing habitat within the rivers and streams in Maine. Having access to high quality aquatic habitat is essential for many aquatic and terrestrial species to complete their life cycle and reproduce as adults. It is critical to many diadromous fish species such as Atlantic salmon which need specific habitat features to construct gravel nests called “redds” to deposit their eggs into and provide ideal habitat to grow their young.