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Editor's Notebook Maine

Penobscot’s Veazie Dam Comes Down

by Ross Purnell, Editor   |  July 22nd, 2013 0

Penobscot restoration project to increase 1,000 miles of habitat for 11 species of sea-run fish.

Veazie Dam

Removal of Veazie Dam on Maine’s Penobscot River begins July 22, 2013. Photo courtesy of Bridget Besaw/Penobscot River Restoration Trust

Today’s removal of the Veazie Dam on Maine’s Penobscot River brings the   potential for Atlantic salmon that much closer to reality.

The removal of the dam is the second dam removal in what is the largest river restoration project in the nation’s history. When completed, more than 1,000 miles of habitat will be opened up to Atlantic salmon and 11 species of native sea-run fish.

“Today’s historic removal of the Veazie Dam makes the recovery for Atlantic salmon on the Penobscot that much more imminent,” said Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited president and CEO. “We know from experience with the Edwards dam removal on the Kennebec River that fish populations will recover rapidly; the Kennebec now supports a thriving recreational fishery for shad and millions of river herring, less than 15 years after dam removal,” Wood said. “This project demonstrates that conservation can directly benefit people and communities.”

The removal of the Veazie Dam will reconnect the Penobscot River from Old Town, Maine to the sea for the first time in nearly two centuries.

After more than a decade of collaboration among the hydropower company that owned the river’s dams, state and federal officials, conservation groups and the Penobscot Indian Nation, the Veazie dam is the second dam to be removed in the project. Last year, the Great Works dam was removed.  A bypass will be built around a third dam, which will mark the project’s completion.

“This unprecedented collaboration has resulted in incredible progress for the Penobscot and for fish and wildlife that live here, ” said Elizabeth Maclin, TU’s vice president of Eastern conservation. “This project gives Atlantic salmon the best chance for recovery,” Maclin said.

Trout Unlimited is a member of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, the non-profit organization implementing the Penobscot restoration project. Other members include the Penobscot Indian Nation, American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine and The Nature Conservancy.

“We are well on our way towards giving Atlantic salmon a chance for recovery,” said Bill Oleszczuk, chair of Maine’s TU council. “It is a great day for Maine and a great day for the Penobscot,” Oleszczuk said.

The Penobscot River drains roughly 9,000 square miles in Maine, or about one-third of the state.  Maine is home to the last remaining wild Atlantic salmon in the nation, and the Penobscot holds the state’s largest population of Atlantic salmon, with annual salmon runs estimated at 50,000-70,000 prior to 1830.

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