Dam Debate Part 2

Wayne Harvey

Updated 2 years ago

The advice of N-O-A-A is to remove the dam entirely or install a fish passage.Some of those projects have already happened and more are scheduled for the near future.People up and down stream are consulted before a project begins but they take into account more than just people’s opinions.They look at many issues, and sometimes like on Brewer Lake in Orrington it’s found to not be in the best interests to remove a dam, but in other cases, including one just down stream in Orrington, we’re told it’s the right move for all involved.”Some of the things that we’re trying to do are a lot along the lines of looking at the habitats, water quality, fish community, plant community, to make sure that we have a good understanding of what actually happens with those kind of projects,” said Rory Saunders a Fishery Biologist with the National Marine Fish Resource.One of those projects was in Orrington. The town was given a dam by the Eastern Corporation, and the costs of maintaining it were, as Town Manager Paul White called it, “astronomical” with a replacement cost of 200 thousand dollars and then maintenance costs on top of that, so they decided to remove it.” I think there may have been some hesitation originally but as they started to see it develop, we have not had any negative comments, in fact just the opposite, very positive feedback,” said White. “And we’re kind of proud of what we have here.””Our attempt right from the beginning was to have a natural what we call a nature like fishway here at this site to resemble the natural stream and make it attractive for fish to swim up through here,” said Matt Bernier of the NOAA Habitat Restoration Center.White said “This site gets used quite frequently today whereas it was pretty much off limits prior to that because of the concerns around the old dam.”At Leonard’s Mills in Bradley, the dam on Blackman Stream was a key piece of the historic accuracy of the logging industry, so they thought it had to stay. Instead of removal a fish way was built around the side of the dam to let the alewife return to the watershed.”It’s reasonably correct to historical accuracy,” said Bill Lynch the VP of the Maine Forest and Logging Museum. “And it looks good and a lot of people are interested in it and every time we have an event a lot of people walk through here and look it all over and they’ve actually seen some fish in the fishway and it’s exciting for them.”The changes on the Penobscot are happening in phases. In 2012 the Great Works dam is coming out, then the Veazie dam, and a fish lift will be installed at the Milford dam. According to the Penobscot River Restoration Trust that means about half of the sea run fish species will have the majority of their habitat back, but at the same time it means the removal of two power producing dams.”What we asked ourselves when we started talking about this project is, is there a way in the modern age to have both hydro power and also to restore fisheries?” said Laura Rose Day the Executive Director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. “And the answer to that was to put the hydro power concentrated on places that are much less damaging to fisheries and open up the main stem for fisheries and that is what we are doing.”The next part of the project will be on the Stillwater River when electric producing dams are installed there.Whether a fish passage of some sort is put in, or the dam is removed completely, those involved seem to be happy with the progress and what will happen in the future on these area waterways.”These are big successes, I mean these are win wins, over time this fish way will be a big draw for the public when the alewife starts coming up in the spring,” said Andrew Goode of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “The alewifes are the base of the food chain basically they are important to atlantic salmon, they are important to bald eagles, important to really everything, so from an ecological standpoint and from a community standpoint these are win win projects.”Rory Saunders a biologist with the National Marine Fish Resource told me dam removal along waterways is not a recent phenomenon, it’s been happening around the country for years, but he did say the sentiment has been changing during the last decade and many people are more accepting of it now.


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