by Caitlin Burchill
WABI-TV news story
Eddington – For more than a decade, the Penobscot Indian Nation, along with conservation groups, hydropower companies and state and federal agencies have worked together to come up with a plan to restore sea-run fisheries while maintaining hydropower.
Monday was a huge step as crews began to breach the Veazie Dam.
The removal of the dam is a monumental step in the “Penobscot River Restoration Project,” one of the largest restoration efforts in the country’s history.
As crowds looked on, demolition crews began the removal of the 830 foot long, 30 foot high dam.
“To know that there are some eager fish waiting to go up this river is really exciting,” said David Daniel, Director of Philanthropy for The Nature Conservancy in Maine, who did a lot of work for this project.
The breaching will reopen the Penobscot River from Old Town to the sea for the first time in around 200 years, allowing Atlantic salmon, endangered short nose sturgeon and other fish species to re-enter their historic habitat.
“So all of these fish need to live parts of their lives, it’s not really optional for them. They need to have time in the ocean and in fresh water, so this will give them back part of their lifestyle back, so they can rebuild a fishery that’s been lost,” said Laura Rose Day, Executive Director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust.
The removal of the dam will take a year, but fish should be able to pass through by the end of early this fall.
And it’s not just helping the fish,
“For local communities, there are paddling opportunities. We hope that there’s more focus on the fishing and recreation, tourism, wildlife watching and for the Penobscot Nation, for instance, this is really fundamental to who the Penobscot Nation is as a tribe,” said Day.
“This river has provided so much over our history to our people both spiritually and physically that it just makes us really proud that we’ve been able to play a role in something as significant as this,” said Kirk Francis, Chief of the Penobscot Indian Nation.
With the removal of the Veazie Dam, other hydro power plants in the area will ramp up their activity to make up for the loss.
“I really love about this project is it’s really a collaborative effort. When you look at the groups and individuals, the governments, whether it’s state or federal government, that’s worked together on this particular project,” said Rep. Mike Michaud (D) 2nd District.
For those who worked on the project for many years, it was unbelievable to see all of their hard work come to fruition.
“I mean this is why we moved to Maine. There’s inspiring projects happening here. I mean you see something like this and $62 million raised to do this project. It’s just fantastic,” said Daniel.