Dam Purchases Big Help In Penobscot River Restoration

Veazie Dam, lowermost barrier that will be removed, is 7.6 m. high and a formidable barrier to all migratory fish, including Atlantic salmon. Removal will go a long way in reconnecting the Penobscot River to the ocean.
Tom Moffatt/Atlantic Salmon Federation

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust today became the owner of the Veazie, Great Works, and Howland dams on the Penobscot River, Maine.

Completion of the purchase from PPL Corporation for $24 million dollars is a major milestone in the Penobscot River Restoration Project. This historic agreement among PPL, the Penobscot Indian Nation, federal and state agencies, and seven conservation groups will both maintain hydropower production and help restore severely depleted Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fisheries.

For the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), the Penobscot Project represents a rare opportunity to restore a major river in the southern range of wild Atlantic salmon.

"The Penobscot Project is ASF's top priority in the United States and one of the most significant projects in our history", said Bill Taylor, President of ASF, "This is our last best chance to restore a significant run of wild Atlantic salmon in the United States."

Beginning in 2011, the Penobscot Trust will remove the Veazie and Great Works dams and build a fish bypass around the Howland dam to open migration corridors long blocked by dams. When the project is complete, renewable energy generation will be the same as before the project or even increase.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation was a founding member of the Trust which was formed in 2004.

"Our campaign to restore Maine's largest river," Bill Taylor continued, "is a model for the entire world, wherever dams impede migration of wild Atlantic salmon and other native fish. The Penobscot restoration is a symbol of collaboration that has been highlighted at conferences in Europe, Australia, and South and North America as a model in science based, large-scale ecosystem planning and collaborative resolution of environmental and energy issues."

Mr. Taylor continued, "Without the acrimony often associated with campaigns to open up fish passage, the Penobscot campaign represents a win-win situation for all. Renewable energy generation will remain at the same level as before the project, and may even increase as energy enhancements are implemented at other dams on the river".

"The purchase of the dams is also an investment in the natural infrastructure -- the Penobscot River -- needed to rebuild and sustain Maine's valuable recreational and commercial fisheries," said Laura Rose Day, Executive Director, Penobscot Trust. "Thanks to so many generous supporters, the strong leadership of the Congressional delegation, and the work of many partners, we will begin the on-the-ground work of restoring the river in the New Year."

The Penobscot Project is strongly supported by state and federal governments, the public sector and the power company. This support is manifested in the funds raised to purchase the dams - $14 million in federal funds and $10 million in private funds. Already, one-third of the twenty five million dollars needed to remove the dams and fully implement the project has been committed with the remainder expected to come from a mix of public and private sources. When the Trust has finished their work, Atlantic salmon and ten other species of sea-run fish, such as the federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon and critically-important river herring, will have dramatically-improved access to over 1,000 river miles.

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