Removal Of Great Works Dam On Penobscot River Underway
For the last two centuries, the Great Works Dam has stopped the flow of the Penobscot River between Old Town and Bradley.Monday, work began on a 62-million dollar project to remove the concrete blockade and return the river to what it once was.The day began with a Penobscot Nation ceremony.”To the Penobscot people today is about much more than removing a dam,” said Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis. “Today signifies the most important conservation project in our ten thousand year history on this great river that we share a name with and that has provided for our very existence for again thousands of years.”The removal of the Great Works Dam is one part of the plan to return the river to its original state and bring back fish species to where they once thrived.Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Keliher announced 50 thousand alewives have been stocked above the dam, and will return through the open waters as adults.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration realizes it’s a costly endeavor, but they are supporting this effort on the Penobscot with an additional one million dollars.”We look ahead and we see big habitat challenges for these important ocean and coastal fisheries all up and down the coast,” said Eric Schwaab the Assistant Secretary for Conservation & Management of the NOAA. “So to be able to invest in these kinds of projects going forward and replicate this success is going to be incredibly important, again not just for this river, but to resources of national interests all up and down our coasts.”"This is a great example of what we are doing and in my view, the Penobscot may in fact be the greatest example because of the fact it is a thousand mile river,” said Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.The plan is to have the Great Works Dam removed by November, then the Veazie Dam next year, and a fishway will be installed at the Howland dam.It’s been years in the making and now the end is in sight.”It does take time but the collaborative effort really moved forward tremendously and with additional push from the federal dollars it made the big difference,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “It’s a matter of priorities.”"To the Congressman’s point,” Secretary Salazar added, “It’s putting the spotlight on the conservation priorities of the nation and then the collaboration to make it happen.”One chunk of concrete at a time, it is happening now.The funds are coming from both public and private sources.In exchange for selling the dams to the Penobscot River Trust, the dams’ owner was allowed to increase electricity production at its other dams.