Cooperatove Conservation Project

Scarborough Marsh Wetland Reserve Project

Wildlife Habitat Improved Through Wetland Restoration Partnership

Location: Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Region: Maine

Project Summary: The 3,100-acre Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management area, Maine's largest and most renowned salt marsh, is being restored in a 5-phased project, eliminating restrictions of natural tidal flows.
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Aerial view of the 3,100-acre Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area.
Resource Challenge

The 3,100-acre Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area, owned and managed by the State of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, includes approximately 2,700 acres of salt marsh, five tidal rivers, several smaller streams, some coastal freshwater marsh, tidal flats, and less than 200 acres of upland habitat.  The long-range management objective for the Scarborough Marsh is to provide suitable habitat for optimum levels of all wildlife species and to provide maximum utilization of the area by sportsmen and other individuals seeking outdoor recreation.  The marsh is Maine ’s largest and most renowned salt marsh and is recognized for high biological productivity and diversity.  The marsh provides habitat for estuarine and catadromous fish species, and supports state and federally-listed threatened or endangered species.

Restriction of the natural tidal flow by railroads, and public and private roads, historical salt hay production drainage ditches and farm roads had created tidal restrictions and excessive drainage.  This had caused loss of natural tidal pools, ecosystem functions and values and had allowed invasive vegetation to alter the marshes, reducing their value as a habitat and as a resource for the marine environment.

Examples of Key Partners
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; Friends of Scarborough Marsh, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf of Maine Program; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;  Ducks Unlimited, SWAMP, Inc., a privately-owned business; and others.
Results and Accomplishments

The project was divided into five phases, and the key participants have served on the planning team. 

The Friends of Scarborough Marsh are the key link of this multi-phased project.  They are the grass roots organiztion that pulls together the community support, facilitates the leverage of financial resources, and leads the monitoring program.  The core partnership group includes the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, centered in harmony with the Friends of Scarborough Marsh. 

In addition to the key partners, each phase of the project has had project specific associate partners, along with different funding partners for each phase.  

Multi-Phased Project Accomplishments

·         The Seavey Landing project, located on a 25-acre tidal site at the end of Seavey Landing Road, was the first phase of the Scarborough Marsh tidal restoration.  This section of the marsh had been negatively impacted by man-made ditches which had drained the marsh and reduced the number of permanent pools on the high marsh.  Restoration work at this site involved the installation of 7 ditch plugs and the excavation of 15 constructed pools.  This phase of the project was completed in 2002.  A 3-year monitoring process followed.

·         Cascade Brook, one of five major tributaries in the Scarborough Marsh system, was the second phase of the restoration project and included 100 acres of salt marsh.  An unused water control structure severely limited tidal flushing, and two underwater berms in the channel behind the water control structure also served as tidal constrictions.  In a 1996 500-year flood, a culvert on the Old Blue Point Road blew out, and large quantities of spoil material smothered two acres of the marsh surface and filled a tidal creek.  In addition, 45 large piles of peat were ripped out of the marsh during the flood, floated downstream, and came to rest on the surface of the marsh.  Non-native Phragmites aggressively invaded the newly disturbed areas.

Restoration work included: (1) lowering the water control structure to increase tidal flow; (2) partial removal of the underwater berm; (3) removal of 5,000 cubic yards of spoil material on the surface of the marsh and in the tidal creek; (4) removal of peat piles; and (5) Phragmites control.  Project completed in 2004.  A 5-year monitoring process is ongoing.

·         The third phase of the restoration project affected approximately 381 acres of the Mill Brook salt marsh.  Man-made ditches had excessively drained substantial sections of the Mill Brook marsh, lowering the natural water table and destroying permanent pool habitat that once supported a suite of species (aquatic plants, invertebrates, fish, shorebirds, wading birds, and waterfowl).  This area was further troubled by an extensive Phragmites invasion, in part as a result of excessive fresh-water run-off from upland developments.

The restoration project was broken down into three segments.  Total project included:  (1) Creation of one ditch; (2) Creation of 25 plugs in 25 man-made ditches; (3) Treatment/mulch of 18 identified Phragmites patches/colonies; (4) Two breaches in man-made berms; and (5) Maintenance of three man-made ditches.  Project completed in 2005.

Two more phases of the project are still to be completed.

·         Libby River – A culvert has long been identified as a tidal restriction, and clearly contributes to an extensive growth of Phragmites upstream of the culvert on the eastern edge of this area of the marsh.

·         Nonesuch River – Man-made ditches, an old road berm, and an extensive Phragmites invasion are the primary impacts of concern.


Long-term partnership effort of improving wildlife habitat on multi-phased project, while contribution partners vary from phase to phase. Includes partnerships with private industries and businesses.

Project Contact
Susan Wilder

Friends of Scarborough Marsh
P.O. Box 7049
Scarborough, ME 04074
Philip Bozenhard
Regional Wildlife Biologist
Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife - Region A
328 Shaker Road
Gray, ME 04039
207-657-2345, x 110

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