Statement of Laura Rose Day, Project Director, Penobscot Partners
Good afternoon. Today we gather here on the banks of the Penobscot River overlooking the Veazie Salmon Club and the Veazie Dam. Both hold an important place in Maine history, and both are now at the gateway to an exciting and historic transition to a new future for the Penobscot River, its fisheries and wildlife, people and their culture, traditions and opportunities. We are filing a truly historic agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today, to rebalance power generation and fisheries restoration on the second largest watershed in the Northeastern United States. The gateway to a restored Penobscot River will be the removal of Veazie Dam.
Historically, the Penobscot River each June pulsed with life. Just below us, tens of millions of migrating fish — herring and shad; tomcod and sturgeon; eel and striped bass — followed a call upstream to headwater streams, ponds and upriver stretches to spawn. Atlantic salmon flashed through this teeming sea-run fishery. Miraculously, Atlantic salmon still swim below us after an incredible journey from Greenland, here to the Penobscot, their home river. By the end of last summer, however, only about 1300 salmon were counted at the fish trap at the Veazie dam. The once-magnificent native fisheries are nearly gone, and with them many traditions, culture, recreational, economic and other opportunities.
But the Penobscot always has been and still remains a river of opportunity. Today, we have filed a formal and collective agreement to work – along with the people of the region – to change the course of events on the Penobscot. The signing of this agreement today symbolizes an unprecedented dedication by the leaders to restore this once mighty American river. It symbolizes a commitment to make this agreement a model not only for its far-reaching ecological results and innovative approach, but also as a model conservation partnership that produces real results through demonstrated commitment. Today, we formally pledge to work together to restore life and vitality to the Penobscot.
Our work is just beginning. We face a significant challenge to raise the funding and other resources necessary to invest in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore the Penobscot River. The purchase price for the dams is about $25 million dollars, and an approximately equal amount will be needed over a several year period to successfully implement the project. This is an investment that the Penobscot river and its people deserve – an investment in a more sustainable future for the fish, wildlife, energy, culture, tradition of the Penobscot region. An investment that promises to return wild healthy runs of endangered Atlantic salmon, American shad and herring that are a vital part of the ocean fishery in the Gulf of Maine. An investment in actions identified as urgent and a high priority for the recovery of Maine’s Atlantic salmon. In order to turn this agreement – this Penobscot promise – into a reality, we must invest in the future of this river.
I’d like to recognize the representatives present for Penobscot Partners. On behalf of all of us and the many thousands of members who we represent, we want to thank the Department of the Interior, PPL Corporation, and the State, as well as the Penobscot Nation for this commitment to work together to make restoration of the Penobscot River a reality. We also appreciate the efforts thus far of the Congressional delegation and look forward to continuing to help make Maine a leader through the successful implementation of this restoration.
Today, let us celebrate the leadership, innovation and commitment that has brought us to the brink of the nation’s most significant river restoration project. We thank the people of the region for their support, for inviting us to discuss the project, for sharing their ideas, concerns, expertise, and hopes about the project. We look forward to working in continued partnership, including with the people in the Penobscot region and beyond, to make good on this collective commitment. Thank you.