The Lockwood Dam in Waterville is the first barrier to fish passage on the Kennebec River. Credit: John Holyoke / BDN

State officials have rescheduled a hearing on a Kennebec River Management Plan that could result in the removal of two dams that prevent fish from swimming farther up the river than Waterville.

The hearing, which was postponed by a February snowstorm, will be held Monday, March 15, at 3 p.m.

“It will be held remotely using Microsoft Teams, so you may participate in the proceeding via telephone or computer,” said Sean Ledwin, the director of the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat Division. “The public hearing may be continued, as necessary, on March 17 at the same time and format.”

Fisheries conservationists say the plan, if adopted, may be the best chance to prevent the extinction of Atlantic salmon in Maine rivers.

The Department of Marine Resources is accepting written comments on the proposal until March 27.

Currently, there are four upstream dams that prevent fish from swimming upstream and reaching the Sandy River, a natural spawning area for salmon and other fish. Conservationists say relying on fishways or other fish passage at dams is not adequate; instead, the dams should be removed entirely, according to several groups.

Jeff Reardon, the Maine Brook Trout Project Director for Trout Unlimited, said the time is right to begin removing more dams on the Kennebec.

“Every place in Maine we have removed a dam near the mouth of a large river, we have successfully restored thriving populations of river herring and shad, and seen some success with salmon restoration,” Reardon said. “There is no place in Maine — or anywhere else — where these species have been restored over more than one dam with fishways. After 20 years of unsuccessful fishways on the Kennebec, it’s time to try what we know works, and remove these four dams.”

In a position paper, The Kennebec Coalition — a group of organizations that support fisheries conservation efforts on the river — said that the Kennebec River has been reborn in the stretches that were opened up by the removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta in 1999. Above Waterville, however, things are much different, and dams block passage to fish that would otherwise have access to miles of habitat.

To learn more or register to attend the virtual hearing, you can reserve a spot on the DMR website.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...