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Maine Dam Removal Will Improve Access to 1,000 Miles of Habitat

Today marks the beginning of the largest dam removal in the Northeast. The removal of the Great Works dam will kick off a larger effort to improve access to nearly 1,000 miles of river habitat on the Penobscot River.

This large-scale, ecosystem-level project will remove the Great Works and Veazie dams and build a fish bypass around the Howland dam. This will open up the river to eleven species of migratory fish, such as endangered Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, and river herring.

In fact, the project is the single best opportunity to recover endangered Atlantic salmon.

The project will also create new community and economic benefits throughout the watershed. The removal of the Great Works dam, which was partially funded by NOAA through the Recovery Act, has supported more than 250 jobs including engineering, hydrology, construction, science, and local contracting services. Similar benefits are expected for the Veazie Dam removal and Howland bypass construction. With the river flowing freely, fishers, kayakers, and paddlers will have increased opportunities for recreation on the river.

The three dams are currently used for hydropower generation.  They will continue to operate until the time of removal. Energy generation lost as a result of the removals and decommissioning will be replaced by expanding capacity at existing projects primarily within the Penobscot River watershed.  When the project is complete, hydropower generation will be maintained at the same levels as before the project began, and may even increase.

The project is part of collaboration between the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, NOAA and other federal and state agencies, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and seven conservation groups.

Posted June 11, 2012