Coalition takes steps to start Penobscot River dams removal

Posted Nov. 09, 2008, at 10:28 p.m.

A coalition has filed permit applications with state and federal regulators to begin the process of purchasing and eventually decommissioning three dams in the Penobscot River.

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust already has raised the $25 million necessary to purchase the Veazie, Great Works and Howland dams from PPL Corp. as part of a historic agreement to restore upstream passage for sea-run fish.

Filing permit applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection was the next step in that lengthy process.

After ownership of the dams has been transferred, the trust must raise an additional $25 million to remove the Veazie and Great Works dams and to bypass the Howland dam. Completion of the project is expected to reopen nearly 1,000 miles of habitat to Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, alewives and other sea-run fish once abundant in the Penobscot.

In return for selling the three dams, PPL Corp. was allowed to increase power generation at six other hydroelectric facilities along the river.

“We have reached yet another milestone in this landmark agreement that benefits the environment, the economy and the culture of eastern Maine,” Dennis J. Murphy, vice president and chief operating officer for PPL’s Eastern Fossil and Hydro Generation unit, said in a statement.

“We remain committed to realizing the vision of this project and moving forward as quickly as possible to get the necessary approvals to complete it,” he said.

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection is expected to hold public hearings on the permit applications. The federal agencies will also accept public comments on the applications.

The partner organizations in the river restoration project are American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Penobscot Indian Nation, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Park Service, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the State Planning Office and PPL.

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