If we are to save endangered Atlantic salmon and restore healthy populations of other sea-run fish, it’s clear that removing four dams on the Kennebec between Waterville and Skowhegan must happen. The best available peer-reviewed science shows that all of the proposals for fish passage being made by the owner of the dams, Brookfield Renewable, will fail.
To make this point, the Natural Resources Council of Maine joined with our partners at the Kennebec Coalition and Conservation Law Foundation to file a detailed objection to Brookfield’s flawed Species Protection Plan (SPP) for endangered Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sturgeon, and shortnose sturgeon at three of its dams on the Kennebec between Waterville and Skowhegan – the Lockwood, Hydro-Kennebec, and Weston dams. The SPP was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and shares the same fatal flaws as Brookfield’s plans for continued operations at the Shawmut dam that sits between the Weston and Hydro-Kennebec dams.
In requesting that FERC deny Brookfield’s SPP and conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement, our groups write:
“With this fish passage plan, Brookfield is making extraordinary claims for passage performance [for Atlantic salmon] that are unsupported by current available data, and Brookfield omits passage performance standards for the other species, leaving them completely unaddressed. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”
“Even if everything Brookfield proposes in the SPP were to work according to plan, which best available science and information show is not possible, it would still result in unacceptable mortality for Atlantic salmon.”
“Brookfield’s failure to guarantee successful passage for other sea-run species is another nail in the coffin of Kennebec salmon, and in any efforts at fish restoration on the Kennebec.”
“Brookfield does not have a suitable solution to the problem of these hydropower projects’ permanently impairing sea-run fish restoration on the Kennebec and never will.”
The filing was submitted by the Kennebec Coalition (Atlantic Salmon Federation, Kennebec Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Maine Rivers) and the Conservation Law Foundation. Below are some of the key takeaways from the document:
- The problems posed by Brookfield’s operations of its four dams cannot be solved without removal, which is why it continues to delay the inevitable outcome. The company has been breaking the law since 2019 by killing salmon and operating without the necessary Endangered Species Act “take” permits.
- Our extensive review of the best available peer-reviewed science shows that all of Brookfield’s proposals for fish passage will fail, which should surprise no one as they haven’t worked anywhere else in the world. Brookfield has provided no data to back up its proposed 96% upstream adult salmon passage standard and 97% downstream passage for smolts. They are unrealistic for one dam, let alone four dams in a row.
- Brookfield’s flawed Species Protection Plan would result in the extirpation of endangered Atlantic salmon from the Kennebec and failure of restoration efforts for other sea-run fish that are essential to the health of the Gulf of Maine fisheries. Because the Kennebec is so critical to the recovery of the Atlantic salmon in the U.S., failure on the Kennebec River would likely result in the extinction of Atlantic salmon in the U.S.
On August 16, our groups joined nearly 800 Mainers and supporters of dam removal to call on FERC to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement as part of the relicensing of the Shawmut dam. In June, routine operations at Brookfield’s dams stranded and injured endangered Atlantic salmon. And in May, several of our groups announced they intend to sue Brookfield Renewable for violations of the Endangered Species Act.
—Nick Bennett, NRCM Staff Scientist and Healthy Waters Director