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Phen Hill Road Project - Cole Brook

Phen Hill Road Project Summary
According to Regional Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Jim Pellerin, the MDIFW has sampled
the Shephards River drainage extensively, and it is “one of the best wild Brook Trout resources in southern Oxford
County”. The presence of Slimy Sculpin is indicative of the excellent water quality in the drainage, and Cole Brook
provides important cold water refugia, spawning, and nursery habitat for wild Brook Trout. The watershed and this
project are in historic Atlantic salmon habitat.
The Phen Hill Road crossing of Cole Brook (Maine Stream Habitat Viewer Site #10399) will be the fourth and final
crossing that Sebago TU will address to reconnect the entire Shepard’s River drainage, in collaboration with MDIFW, the
USFWS Maine Coastal Program, and the towns of Brownfield and Porter. The Kennard Hill Road Crossing of Cole Brook
(Maine Stream Habitat Viewer site 10403), was replaced in 2020 under a DEP crossing grant. That project is located 1.14
miles upstream of this proposed project, and it opened up 1.7 miles of upstream habitat. Combined, this project and the
Kennard Hill Rd project will have opened 2.83 miles of upstream habitat on Cole Brook. Other road crossings in the
drainage that have been replaced under the Shepards River initiative include site 10392 on Linscott Brook, which
opened 7.9 miles of habitat, and site 10028 on the Shephards River, which opened 8.3 miles of habitat. (See map below
showing the projects being addressed under Sebago TU’s Shepard’s River and West Branch Tenmile River initiatives.) All
of these sites are within mapped Brook Trout habitat, and are now accessible to any wild Brook Trout seeking quality
habitat in the drainage. With connectivity to the rest of the Shepards River drainage, Cole Brook will be integrated into a
much larger barrier free system of streams and rivers which is critical (but far too rare) for a healthy wild brook trout
population. The small towns in this area of the state highly value the fishing resource, both for recreation for local
residents, and for the tourist revenue that the resource brings in to the area. This is a high priority and high-quality
brook trout stream for the Town of Brownfield, MDIFW, and a variety of other stakeholders. It will add to other work
being done in this area of the Saco River watershed, since the Town of Porter, MDIFW, Sebago TU, and other partners
have already begun a similar initiative to fully reconnect the nearby West Branch Tenmile River drainage, also a Saco
River tributary containing high value habitat for wild Brook Trout (see map below).
The existing crossing is undersized and perched and is a barrier to fish passage as well as periodically overtopping and
being obstructed by debris, resulting in cost and inconvenience to the town and people living and working in the area.
The project will replace two elliptical 5.5’ x 3.5’ rusting corrugated metal culverts with an open-bottom concrete box
bridge having a clear span of 17.8 feet (see Proposed Conditions below). The Restoration Plan and Conceptual Design
were prepared by Alex Abbott of USFWS Gulf of Maine Coastal Program using a Stream Simulation Design process of
assessment and analysis. The proposed structure provides significantly greater ecological connectivity while ensuring
stability of the road for far longer than the existing undersized, rusting crossing structure. The new structure will be
estimated to last for between 75 and 100 years, has a cross-sectional area of over 20 times the current crossing, and
provides free headspace for passing debris even during expected “100-year” (1 percent) storm events. The crossing will
have an open bottom and durable, well-built banks for armoring abutments, providing appropriate stream form,
focusing low flows, and allowing for terrestrial passage by being connected at floodplain elevation at all four corners.