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Our Projects > Studies and Information About York's Rivers, Maine > Summary and Recommendations


Although relatively few reports or studies have been done that focus specifically on the York River, there are many tidbits of information from state, federal and local sources.  Under each subject area, this report provides a summary and analysis of gaps in knowledge.

In the big picture, studies show the York River to be in fairly good health, but to be threatened by non-point source pollution and development.  The irony of this threat is that it is difficult to measure because of its very nature; although the aggregate of land use changes may degrade the river over time, the change from one year to the next may not appear to be significant in traditional studies or monitoring.

Past Studies: Habitat, Sediments, Water Quality

Wildlife habitat has been intensively studied as the result of interest on the part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as well as some study by state agencies. Connectivity of habitat is threatened by recent subdivision and development in the watershed; this could be preserved by protecting large parcels, combined with an aggressive stewardship program targeted at waterfront landowners.

Sediment sampling in York Harbor, although not intensive, has been done in conjunction with dredging operations, and shows relatively low levels of contamination.  Such contaminated sediments should usually just be left alone.

Water quality studies in the York River have concentrated on bacterial (responsible for clam flat closures) and on dissolved oxygen; the water quality is generally good, yet high bacteria and low dissolved oxygen are each responsible for portions of the river not meeting their water quality classifications.

Gap:  Fish Populations and Aquatic Habitat

Much less is known about freshwater, marine, or anadromous fish habitat in the York River, and no systematic recording of species has been made.  This represents a significant gap in the knowledge about the river.  Moreover, it is likely that the fish populations are threatened by a combination of watershed land use changes, culverts and other barriers to fish passage, and possible changes in water temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen.

Gap: Water Quality Data Other than Bacteria

Water quality is generally good, according to the little sampling done.  Bacterial pollution does close clam flats in the upper part of the river, and seasonally down in the Harbor.  Much less is known about water quality that is critical to aquatic life, including fish:  relevant parameters would include dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and turbidity.


High Priority

Learn more about the fish populations in the river.

  • Involve the local community through an anglers' survey and possible storytelling?
  • Work with scientists to survey fish habitat in both tidal and freshwater portions.
  • Monitor the river during the spawning season for anadromous fish.
  • Seek funding for a fish population survey.
Map the river corridor.
  • Determine shoreline conditions, regardless of ownership.  Unprotected land is not necessarily "lost" as either habitat or for access.
  • Determine suitability for public access.
  • Indicate areas of invasive vegetation and determine methods of eradication.
  • Participate in habitat analysis along with the Natural Areas Program and Endangered Species Group, including a volunteer dragonfly monitoring program.

Develop a stewardship program for landowners along the river.

  • Distribute river-care literature to landowners.
  • Host a series of workshops, when possible outdoors, to look at backyard habitat, lawn care practices.
  • Consider promoting the National Wildlife Foundation's Backyard Habitat program locally.
Involve the community in events along or on the river.
  • Hold a river festival, picnic, or concert.
  • Organize boating or canoeing events, particularly in June (National Rivers Month).
  • Host a series of interpretive nature events during the good weather.

Getting people on the river is one of the best ways to help them understand it.

Lower Priority

Analyze the restrictions to tidal flow along the salt marsh.

  • Employ a volunteer-based monitoring method.
  • Use the monitoring effort to raise awareness within town.
  • Advocate for one or more restorations of the most restrictive areas.
Support an ongoing water quality monitoring program.
  • Expand upstream monitoring of parameters other than bacteria: do include dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and flow.
  • Begin doing "biomonitoring" of macroinvertebrates; this yields data for both water quality and fish habitat.
  • Make sure DEP's "impaired waters" list includes all tributaries that are not meeting standards.
Consider compiling GIS data for the watershed.
  • Collect electronic copies of GIS datalayers from state, federal, local agencies.
  • Determine a protocol for updating this database.
  • Digitize additional data if desired.
  • Work with Coastal Mosaic, the Maine Office of GIS, the Town of York, and/or the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission on this project, rather than becoming GIS experts.


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