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Evaluación de la salud del puerto interior de Otter Creek y posibles vías para solucionar los problemas

Mount Desert, Maine

Featured image for the project, Assessing the Health of Otter Creek Inner Harbor and Potential Pathways to Remediate Problems

Otter Creek Cove Causeway shown shortly after its construction on a 1940s postcard. The causeway separates the cove into an inner harbor and outer cove. The inner harbor, formerly the site of a vibrant fishing community, sits in the background. The causeway is a part of the Loop Road through Acadia National Park. Image courtesy Karen Zimmerman and National Park Service.

For many years, community members who live around and use Otter Creek Cove have been concerned about declines in the health of the inner harbor, indicated by marked declines in populations of fish, clams, and other organisms. Problems appear to be related to climate change, tidal restrictions caused by a causeway built in 1939, and contamination caused by a water treatment facility that dumped contaminated effluent into the inner harbor. We propose to assess the health of the inner harbor, causes of problems, and options to remediate problems. Restoring the health of the inner harbor will help community members re-establish fishing, clamming, recreation, and other historical uses of the cove important to the community.


La Comunidad

The Town of Mount Desert and the town’s Sustainability Committee are leading this project. Mount Desert is a rural community (population 2,100) that covers the middle third of Mount Desert Island, which is also home to most of Acadia National Park. Mount Desert includes six distinct villages. Otter Creek Cove, site of this project, is a central feature of the village of Otter Creek and is historically important to the community as a site for fishing, clamming, recreation, and other activities. With National Park Service ownership of nearly all of the land around Otter Creek Cove and declines in the health of the inner harbor, community use of the cove has declined dramatically. The community would like to improve the health of the cove to help restore some of these historical uses of the cove.

Previous work on the health of Otter Creek Cove has been limited. The National Park Service and the Otter Creek Aid Society have documented history of the community, including historical use of and ties to the cove. National Park Service also has extensive historical documentation of the causeway that restricts tidal flow to the inner harbor. Maine Department of Environmental Protection and US EPA documented that effluent from the water treatment facility in Otter Creek contained heavy metals, including copper, zinc, and cyanide, at concentrations that exceeded maximum regulatory limits. The National Park Service and researchers have also surveyed benthic biodiversity in the cove, although we do not know of anyone who has assessed contamination in marine animals.

El proyecto

The community would like to understand the current health of Otter Creek Inner Harbor, causes of declines in the health of the inner harbor, and potential ways to remediate problems and improve the health of the inner harbor. Specifically, the community is concerned about dramatic declines in populations of fish, clams, and other marine organisms within the inner harbor. The community hopes to use the results of the project to work with the National Park Service to plan and implement steps that could improve the health of the inner harbor.

We believe the initial steps of the project will involve site visits, interviews with residents and scientists familiar with cove conditions and history, and assessment of existing data describing inner harbor conditions. The National Park Service and Schoodic Institute may be able to assist with some of this work—e.g., identifying historical records, sampling intertidal biodiversity. With this information, we would ask the scientist to craft an initial assessment of the health of the inner harbor, plausible causes of declines in health, and work with the community to outline next steps necessary to work toward improving the health of the inner harbor. Potential next steps that the scientist might recommend could include further studies to document tidal flows, contaminants, experimental restoration of clam populations, or other steps necessary before larger-scale remediation is possible.


Calendario e hitos

The timeline for this project is flexible (6-18 months) dependent on the availability of the scientist. National Park Service plans to do rehabilitation work on the causeway during 2023 and 2024. We expect milestones to include compiling existing historical records and data, assessment of data, and communication of results to the project team via a presentation and written report.


Equipo del proyecto

Líderes comunitarios

Durlin Lunt Headshot

Durlin Lunt is the Town Manager for the Town of Mount Desert, a position he has held since 2010. In that role he oversees day-to-day operations of the town government.

Phil Lichtenstein Headshot

Phil Lichtenstein chairs the town Sustainability Committee. The mission of the committee is to keep informed on sustainability issues for the town; to review and analyze data and information pertaining to the impact of town activities on the tax rate and environment; to recommend to the Board of Selectmen policies, ordinances and action plans to implement practical, timely efforts to reduce costs, reduce energy use, and reduce the impact of town activities on our environment.


Científicos comunitarios

Chris Petersen Professor, College of the Atlantic


Hannah Webber Director of Marine Ecology, Schoodic Institute


Rebecca Cole-Will headshot

National Park Service Contact

Rebecca Cole-Will is the head of Resource Management for Acadia National Park. She oversees the management of natural and cultural resources in the park, including monitoring of resource conditions and management actions to maintain the health of park resources. Her research background is in archeology.


Becario científico comunitario

Abe Miller Headshot

Dr. Abe Miller-Rushing is the Science Coordinator for Acadia National Park. He oversees research in the park and works with partners to address priority science needs. His research background is in conservation, forest ecology, and climate change adaptation.

Organización(es) colaboradora(s)

The Town of Mount Desert and National Park Service are lead organizations on this project. Other stakeholders who we will keep informed during the project include the Otter Creek Aid Society, Town Shellfish Committee, Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and Acadia National Park Advisory Commission. The role of these stakeholders may evolve as the project develops.