Penobscot River Receives Extreme Makeover

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The Atlantic Salmon Federation is celebrating the removal of Veazie Dam and the one year anniversary of the removal of Great Works Dam, both on Maine's Penobscot River.

In one short year, the Penobscot River has undergone an extreme makeover. This summer, the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) is celebrating two groundbreaking restoration achievements on Maine’s largest river; the one-year anniversary of the Great Works Dam removal and the breaching of the Veazie Dam further downstream. Both dam removals are part of the larger Penobscot River Restoration Project (PRRP), a collaborative effort that will restore the ecological integrity of the whole watershed, while providing new or improved opportunities for hydroelectric development.

This restoration initiative was begun by ASF and the Penobscot Indian Nation in 1999, and grew into a broad coalition of environmental groups interested in restoring once abundant sea-run fish populations. Over a decade later, their efforts culminated in the removal of the Great Works dam in June, 2012. “Since then, the changes to this river have been significant”, said Andrew Goode, ASF’s VP of U.S. Operations. “Today, rapids submerged since the 1850s have re-appeared as the lower river begins to look more like it did thousands of years before dams nearly wiped out all 12 species of sea-run fish in the river, including Atlantic salmon”.

On July 22nd, 2013, a ceremony was held to celebrate the removal of the Veazie Dam, the second major dam to be decommissioned through the PRRP. This 830-foot long hydroelectric dam connected the towns of Veazie and Eddington near Bangor, Maine, and represented an impassable barrier for sea-run fish.

“Removing Veazie Dam is the biggest step yet to open the river and rebuild the Penobscot’s once abundant sea-run fisheries,” said Laura Rose Day, Executive Director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, the entity created to oversee the restoration. “This historic milestone is due to the time, passion and resources of many remarkable partners. We are fortunate to work with so many committed people, towns, public and private funders, businesses and organizations to realize the Penobscot River’s full potential.”

Major support for Veazie Dam deconstruction comes from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, and the Wyss Foundation. This work was also made possible by generous private support from foundations, individuals and other sources.

The third and final dam to be decommissioned through the PRRP is the Howland Dam, which was purchased by the Trust along with the Veazie and Great Works Dams. At the Howland Dam, a natural river channel by-pass will be constructed to allow for fish passage, and is scheduled to be completed by 2015.

Not only will the PRRP restore about 1,000 miles of upstream habitat for sea-run fish, it also seeks to create new opportunities for energy production. Black Bear Hydro Partners will increase power generation at six dams in the Penobscot watershed that will have a minimal effect on fish passage.

The $62 million collaborative project has gained international attention, as both a large-scale restoration success, and as an innovative energy project.

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Livia Goodbrand
Atlantic Salmon Federation
(506) 529-1033
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