Removal of the Veazie Dam on Maine's Penobscot River has begun, continuing efforts that will restore nearly 1,000 miles of habitat for a number of sea-run fish species.
The work is being undertaken by the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, which purchased the 8.4-MW Veazie, 7.9-MW Great Works and 1.9-MW Howland hydropower projects and their associated dams from the PPL Corporation for about US$24 million in 2010.
Removal of the Great Works Dam was completed in 2012, with Veazie to be gone by the end of 2014, according to the organization.
Veazie Dam is an 830-foot-long, 30-foot-high buttress-style structure that was completed in 1913.
"The Veazie Dam removal is a major step forward in the restoration of Maine's native sea-run fisheries, which are vital to the biodiversity of marine and freshwater habitats in our state," Maine Department of Marine Resources commissioner Patrick Keliher said.
Meanwhile, fish passage improvements will be made at Howland dam, providing access to the Penobscot River many species haven't enjoyed for more than a century.
"For the first time in 150 years, the Atlantic salmon run will naturally reach the Penobscot Indian Nation's ancient fishing grounds on the river that bears their name," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber said. "When Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, river herring, American eels, and other migratory fish reach Veazie, they will once again swim upstream."
Even with the removal of hydropower assets from the Veazie and Great Works sites, the trust said it doesn't expect the state's overall hydroelectric capacity to dip.
Making up for lost production along the Penobscot River will be improvements and expansions to a number of other projects owned by trust partner Black Bear Hydro Partners, LLC, which were sold by the PPL Corporation in 2009. Black Bear announced in June 2012 it had applied for permits to increase generating capacity at its Orono and Stillwater hydropower plants.
The Penobscot River Restoration Trust is a collaborative effort that includes the Penobscot Indian Nation, seven conservation groups, two hydroelectric project operators, and a number of state and federal agencies.
"Credit for this historic milestone is due to many remarkable partners whose time, passion and resources are helping reconnect the Penobscot River to the sea," trust executive director Laura Rose Day said. "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."
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