NRCM news statement
“Today is a great day for the people, fish, and wildlife, of the Penobscot River. The removal of the Veazie Dam will give Maine’s largest river a new lease on life while maintaining hydropower production. The Penobscot River has worked hard for Maine people for hundreds of years. It’s time for us to give back to the river. Now, for the first time in 200 years, endangered shortnose sturgeon, threatened Atlantic sturgeon, striped bass, rainbow smelt and tomcod will regain access to 100% of their historic habitat.
“As the Veazie Dam is removed, I think back to the last time I paddled the Penobscot River at Greenbush, where the river wound through small islands and an eagle soared overhead. The wide expanse of Maine’s largest river serves as the watershed for a huge swath of Maine, pouring water back to the sea. Since 2000, NRCM has worked to free this river and all of the life within so it can thrive.
“The vision and support represented by everyone here will soon mean great things for the Penobscot River. Once the project is completed, “upper river” fish, such as endangered Atlantic salmon, will regain access to 1,000 miles of their historic habitat too. We can also expect to see improved water quality and a tremendous boost to the entire ecosystem—insects, 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.
“NRCM has worked for decades to restore the Penobscot, and is proud to be a founding member of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, and to take part in its creative, cooperative conservation efforts.
Many more people will enjoy the beauty and energy of this river now and we look forward to the day when the river is teeming with fish and wildlife, its communities flourish, the Penobscot Nation’s traditions are strengthened, and the river’s connection to the sea is restored.”
Penobscot River Restoration Project and the Natural Resources Council of Maine
July 22, 2013, will go down in history, as the Veazie Dam on Maine’s Penobscot River is breached, connecting the river to the sea for the first time in nearly two centuries as part of what may be the largest dam removal river restoration project in the nation. Veazie is the dam closest to the sea in Maine’s largest river.
For more than fifty years, NRCM has led efforts to protect and restore thousands of miles of Maine’s rivers, for the benefit of people, fish, and wildlife throughout the Gulf of Maine.
Since 2000, NRCM has played a central role in opening the Penobscot River to improve access to 1,000 miles of habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon and ten other species of native sea-run fish that feed Maine communities, wildlife, and the Gulf of Maine.
In 1999, Laura Rose Day served as watershed project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Working with the Penobscot Indian Nation and other conservation groups, during three long years of negotiations with the hydro developer, the Penobscot River Restoration Project was born.
NRCM is a founding member of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust and NRCM scientist, Nick Bennett, currently serves as a board member. The Trust successfully removed the Great Works Dam in June 2012 as part of the project to restore fisheries, cultural, economic, recreational, and wildlife benefits, while maintaining or even increasing hydropower generation on the river. The next significant milestone on the Penobscot River begins July 22, 2013, with the breaching of the Veazie Dam.
In the 1990s, NRCM was instrumental in opening up the Kennebec River, and later its tributary, the Sebasticook, which is now home to the largest alewife run on the eastern seaboard—approximately 3 million fish annually. These magnificent waterways are now experiencing the return of Bald Eagles, Osprey, and other wildlife.
On June 5, 2013, NRCM celebrated the return of alewives as they regained access to their native habitat in the St. Croix River watershed beyond Grand Falls Dam, for the first time in 22 years. Since 2001, NRCM has worked with the Passamaquoddy people, federal officials, legislators, scientists, lobstermen and fishermen, conservationists, and others, to open the St. Croix watershed to alewives for the benefit of people, fish, and wildlife throughout the Gulf of Maine.
NRCM has advocated in the Maine Legislature, before the International Joint Commission, and elsewhere, to allow passage for alewives into the St. Croix. The success of these efforts, combined with opening of the Penobscot, may lead to the largest alewife run in the United States, supplying sustenance to the Passamaquoddy tribes, bait for lobster fishermen, food for fish and wildlife, and a chance for revival of the Gulf of Maine ground fisheries.