by Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
HOWLAND, Maine — Construction of the $3.5 million fish bypass at the former Howland tannery site is likely to begin next month, ending 11 years of preparation, officials said Friday.
Construction crews already demolished the former powerhouse attached to the Howland Dam on the Piscataquis River. On Friday, they continued shaping the channel leading to the bypass, said Laura Rose Day, executive director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, which is overseeing the work.
“Probably in a couple of weeks things will start taking shape more in terms of the actual shape of the bypass and we will be starting to move into the next few construction phases,” Day said Friday.
The bypass is due to be finished by fall. It is part of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust’s plan to open nearly 1,000 miles of habitat to endangered Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, American shad, alewives and seven other species of migratory, sea-run fish now largely blocked from going past Howland. Those species help support other commercially important species, such as cod and lobster.
The restoration trust bought the Veazie, Great Works and Howland dams from PPL Corp. in December 2010 in a historic deal worth $24 million. Under an agreement brokered in 2004, PPL in return gained authorization to increase power generation at six other dams along the river, entirely offsetting the generation losses incurred when the three dams were decommissioned.
The Veazie Dam was breached in 2013. The Great Works Dam, which stretched across the Penobscot River from Bradley to Old Town, went down in 2012. The Howland Dam near the Piscataquis and Penobscot rivers remains in place but does not generate electricity.
As part of the project, the town demolished the tannery site, which decades ago was the town’s largest single employer. Town officials are developing a plan to market the site.
The Board of Selectmen has been concerned the site was getting overrun by large piles of rocks, dirt, coal ash and slag created during the initial site preparation work in December, Chairman Glenn Brawn said.
But selectmen met with trust officials, who agreed to amend the easement by which byway builders access the site. The amendment should lead to the site being substantially cleaned up, Brawn said.
“I guess I will hold my judgment until I see the finished project,” Brawn said Friday. “I will be glad when it is over so we can have our site and we can move forward with the plan we have for the economic development of that site.”
The bypass work has included improvements to an old fish ladder at the Howland Dam that should help more fish access habitats north of Howland, Day said. Its cost initially was set at about $3.2 million but Day said she expected a slight increase.