It took a historic decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and an unusual collaboration between environmental groups, the city of Augusta and the state of Maine to remove the Edwards Dam. But 20 years later, the hard-fought effort is being replicated and celebrated around the country as native, sea-run fish, bald eagles and other wildlife continue to return to the Kennebec River.
As dams go, the Edwards wasn’t particularly large: 24 feet high and 920 feet long. And when a backhoe tore into the impoundment 20 years ago this week and freed the river for the first time in 162 years, it didn’t look or sound terribly dramatic to the crowd that gathered to watch on shore.
The dam was demolished only after federal regulators determined that the ecological benefits of removing it outweighed the value of the electricity it produced. That was something that had never occurred before.
Around the world, said Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, people took notice. And as the Kennebec continues its natural resurgence, he said they’re still paying attention.