Statement by Lisa Pohlmann, NRCM Executive Director
Today is a great day for the Penobscot River and all of the wildlife and communities that depend upon it. The removal of the Great Works Dam is a landmark in the Penobscot River Restoration Project. We are on our way to giving Maine’s largest river a new lease on life.
In addition to the environmental, economic, and cultural benefits of a revived Penobscot River, the people of Maine will continue to benefit from the same amount of energy generation because Black Bear Hydro is increasing energy development at its other facilities in the river system. This project is truly a win-win for Maine.
Imagine the Penobscot teeming with fishâshad, striped bass, sturgeon, and alewives. They are all important to our Gulf of Maine ground fisheries. Imagine thousands of Atlantic salmon pulsing through the waters that flow before us today. This is what the people of the Penobscot Indian Nation experienced centuries ago on this majestic river, the lifeblood of their culture. Today, we are a taking a giant leap toward that river that once ran freely, leading sea-run fish from the Atlantic Ocean to their breeding habitat deep in Maine’s North Woods. That is the river we want to leave for all of our grandchildren.
It is an honor to celebrate the removal of the Great Works Dam with the people of the Penobscot Nation. Thank you for hosting today’s event, and for working so many years to bring back your rightful legacy: a healthy, thriving river. Thanks to your generosity, we are pleased that hundreds of people, including many members of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, can be here together.
Today we are also celebrating the cooperative spirit that has led us to this moment. The Penobscot River Restoration Project is the result of an innovative and unique partnership. On behalf of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, I want to thank and congratulate all of our partners: the Penobscot Nation, American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, and, of course, the staff and board of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust.
Here with us today are many individuals and organizations that provided the substantial financial resources needed to accomplish our goal. We cannot thank you enough for your generosity.
This far reaching project is also a testament to other key parties I want to thank, including PPL Corporation and Black Bear Hydro, and our governmental agencies: the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs; National Park Service; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and the State of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the State Planning Office. I’d like to extend a special thank you and welcome to Secretary of the Interior Salazar and Assistant Secretary Schwaab from NOAA.
The vision and support represented by everyone here will soon mean great things for the Penobscot River. Once the project is complete, we expect to see improved access to nearly 1,000 miles of historic river habitat for “upper river” fish, such as endangered Atlantic salmon, and 100 percent restoration of habitat to “lower river” fish, including sturgeon and striped bass. We can also expect to see improved water quality and a tremendous boost to the entire ecosystemâinsects, amphibians, birds, mammals, plants, and people.
Today’s event demonstrates our commitment to protecting the environment so vital to Maine’s economy and way of life. For the Natural Resources Council of Maine, it is a reminder of our beginnings in 1959, when a handful of concerned citizens worked together to protect another of Maine’s great rivers by helping to establish the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Since then our great love and commitment to our rivers has continued, with our work on the rebirth of the Kennebec River through the removal of the Edwards Dam in 1999 and the Fort Halifax Dam in 2008. The Kennebec River now experiences the largest alewife run in the nation and, likely, the world. Just think what will happen next, right here on the Penobscot.
I joined the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s board in 2000 when this project was just coming together. It is very exciting for me to see a project I’ve been involved with for over a decade come to fruition.
The Penobscot River has worked hard for Maine people for hundreds of years. Now it’s time for us to take care of the river. Soon we’ll be able to see just how the Penobscot has revived and we will celebrate long into the future.