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Presumpscot River pact provides dam removal, fish passage

Sappi Fine Paper North America has agreed to remove one dam, install fish lifts at another, and launch a trap-and-truck program to jump-start restoration of native sea-run species on Maine's Presumpscot River watershed.

Sappi agreed to remove Cumberland Mills Dam, a non-power water control structure, the farthest downstream on the Presumpscot near Westbrook. It also agreed to install fish lifts at 1.35-MW Saccarappa Dam, the next dam upstream. Parties to the preliminary agreement said July 10 they hope the measures will trigger fish passage farther upstream at 800-kW Mallison Falls, 1-MW Little Falls, and 1.9-MW Gambo dams, improving fishing and recreational opportunities.

Sappi, a unit of S.D. Warren Co.; Maine's Department of Marine Resources; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; American Rivers; and Friends of the Presumpscot River could reach a final settlement by year's end.

�We cannot comment on the estimated costs of specific portions of the agreement,� Sappi Corporate Communications Manager Brooke Carey said. �The cost of all the work included in the settlement in principal is estimated to be in the millions.�

The Portland Press Herald reported the pact could cost the company well in excess of $10 million. Of that amount, it said, about $6 million would be needed to remove the dam and to conduct associated engineering work.

Friends of the Presumpscot River pushed the state to mandate fish passage at Cumberland Mills Dam, which is not federally regulated because it does not generate power. The agreement means the state review of Cumberland Mills Dam would be put on hold and eventually could be dropped, the Press Herald reported.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses for the projects include a U.S. Fish and Wildlife prescription that requires fish passage to be installed on a schedule once fish passage is provided at Cumberland Mills Dam. The preliminary settlement states work to remove Cumberland Mills Dam and area renovations will be completed by May 2011.

Sappi currently uses the dam to hold water for use in making paper. If the dam is removed, Sappi will install pumps and other equipment to draw water from a shallower, faster-moving river, the newspaper said.

Additional work outlined in the agreement includes fish lifts at Saccarappa Dam in 2016 and upriver dams as fish return to the river.

�Looking at the solution in its entirety, the removal of the dam and other components of the agreement in principal was the best solution for all parties involved,� Carey said.

Sappi noted it has enhanced fishery resources on the Presumpscot over the years. For example, it provides minimum flows downstream of 1.8-MW Eel Weir Dam for a recreational fishery. Sappi also provides minimum flows for fisheries at its 2.4-MW Dundee, Gambo, and Mallison Falls dams to improve fisheries for trout and other species.

The licensee for the five projects, S.D. Warren Co., does business as Sappi Fine Paper North America. It is operating Eel Weir Dam, under a temporary annual license pending relicensing. Licenses for the other four projects are to expire in 2043.

In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirmed a Maine court ruling that Warren's Presumpscot River projects must be certified by the state under Clean Water Act Section 401. (HNN 5/16/07)

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