Timeline of the Edwards Dam & Kennebec River Restoration
1834 Maine citizens, fearing decimation of fisheries populations, protest against the concept of a dam in Augusta when it is first proposed in legislative authorization several years before the dam is even built.
1837 Kennebec River Dam Co. builds dam below the head of tide in Augusta. Construction includes locks for boat passage and fish ladder. Operator changes name to Kennebec Locks & Canal Company.
1838 Fish ladder washed away in spring flood. Dam’s owners refuse to rebuild fish passage.
1842-1846 Dam provides power for seven saw mills, a grist mill, and a machine shop.
1868 Saw mill and grist mill destroyed by fire.
1870 Major breach of dam. Dam rebuilt to current configuration.
1882 Ownership changes to Edwards Manufacturing Company. Large textile mill employing 700+ workers built on west shore. Dam provides mechanical power for the textile mill.
1903 Eight water wheels in operation provide mechanical power by means of shafts, pulley, and belts.
1913 First electrical generators installed.
1973 Bates Manufacturing sells its Edwards Division to Miller Industries, saving 800 area jobs. Edwards’ name goes with sale.
1974 150 feet of dam washes out in winter flood.
1975 Dam repaired despite pleas from fisheries biologists to allow the river to flow free.
Early 1980s Textile mill ceases operation. All workers laid off.
1984 Edwards Manufacturing Co. signs 15-year contract to sell electricity at approximately three times the market price to Central Maine Power.
1986 Maine Department of Marine Resources initiates fisheries restoration for alewife in the Kennebec River.
1987 Kennebec Hydro Developers Group (seven up-river dams) signs fisheries restoration agreement with State of Maine with commitments to restore alewife, American shad, and Atlantic salmon. Edwards Manufacturing refuses to participate.
Kennebec River Anglers Coalition forms to advocate for dam removal and fisheries restoration.
1988 Edwards installs experimental fish pump to assist KHDG fisheries restoration effort.
1989 Kennebec Coalition (American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Trout Unlimited and its Kennebec Valley Chapter) formed to advocate for dam removal through the federal relicensing process.
Massive fire destroys the closed textile mill buildings at the site.
1990 Hydro generation equipment rebuilt following fire. Remains of mill buildings demolished.
1991 Edwards applies for new 50-year license to expand capacity from 3.5 to 11.5 megawatts.
Governor McKernan calls for dam removal.
Maine Legislature adopts resolve calling for dam removal.
1992 City of Augusta becomes co-licensee with Edwards Manufacturing Company with a contract that provides 3% of gross revenues to the city.
1993 Edwards and Augusta’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate the dam expires. Dam continues to operate on annual permits pending action on license application.
Settlement negotiations sponsored by FERC fail.
1994 FERC issues new policy concluding it has authority to deny an application for relicensing as well as authority to order a dam removed at the dam owner’s expense. Edwards and Augusta object.
1995 Edwards/Augusta withdraw their proposed 11.5 megawatt expansion and amend their application to maintain status quo electrical capacity.
1996 FERC issues preliminary recommendations to relicense the dam with fish passage.
US Fish & Wildlife Service specifies that a $9 million fish passage design is necessary.
Kennebec Coalition files 7,000-page report on FERC recommendations, making the case that the benefits of removing the dam exceed the benefits of continued operations.
1997 FERC reverses preliminary decision as Final Environmental Impact Statement recommends dam removal.
FERC orders dam removal at owner’s expense. Edwards/Augusta begin the appeals process.
1998 Settlement Accord signed, May 26, 1988
State of Maine will accept the dam as a gift from the Edwards Manufacturing Co. on January 1, 1999.
State of Maine will remove the dam with funds provided by Bath Iron Works (to help meet a restoration requirement in connection with its planned facility expansion into the Kennebec) and from upriver KHDG dam owners.
Settlement provides for extended anadromous and catadromous fisheries restoration program.
Settlement establishes a new working partnership between the State of Maine and the City of Augusta for improvements on the Kennebec River waterfront.
1999 Edwards Dam shut down forever. State of Maine acquires the site, and dam removal begins.
Dam breached at public event, on July 1, with Governor Angus King, Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt, NRCM Executive Director Brownie Carson, U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Terry Garcia, heads of other Kennebec Coalition organizations, state agency officials, and an estimated 1,000 onlookers.
Spring, 2000 Sea-run fish have access to the restored 18 miles of spawning habitat between Augusta and Waterville for the first time since 1837.
2000 FERC denies industry’s requests for rehearing of Edwards removal orders thus affirming FERC’s right to remove the dam, May 2000.
Shad, alewives, two species of sturgeon, and striped bass arrive in Waterville 18 miles above the old Edwards Dam site, taking advantage of the new free-flowing Kennebec.
A “fish pump” is installed at the Ft. Halifax Dam to provide passage for alewife into the Sebasticook River watershed; 125,586 river herring pumped and trucked to upstream habitat
2006 Lockwood Dam fish lift constructed and operational in Waterville to provide passage to upper portions of the Kennebec River. In the first year, 4094 river herring and 15 sea-run Atlantic salmon are lifted. Shad do not use the fish lift, although they are caught nearby by anglers.
Fish lifts are constructed and operational at the Benton Falls and Burnham Dams on the Sebasticook, although they remain largely unused because fish passage at Fort Halifax Dam is not yet completed.
2007 The Lockwood Dam fish lift passes 3,448 river herring, 15 Atlantic salmon, and 18 shad.
At Fort Halifax, the fish pump lifts 461,412 river herring.
2008 In its final year of operation, the Fort Halifax fish pump lifts 401,331 river herring.
The Lockwood Dam fish lift passes 93,775 river herring, 22 Atlantic salmon, and no shad.
Fort Halifax Dam is removed to provide fish passage at the mouth of the Sebasticook River.
2009 With Fort Halifax Dam removed, 593,465 river herring pass through the fish lift at Benton Falls in the first week of May. By mid-June, 1,287,630 river herring have passed upstream.
In May, the towns of Benton and Vassalboro begin the first town-managed river herring commercial harvests since Edwards Dam was constructed, restoring a long dormant local tradition.
Ten years after the Edwards Dam in Augusta, Maine was removed from the Kennebec River, the river has totally come alive. The coalition of groups that worked on this project for more than a decade knew that the benefits would be enormous, and they have been. The Edwards Dam had blocked the river since 1837. Since its removal on July 1, 1999, the water quality in the river has improved, millions of fish are returning to long-lost spawning habitat, Osprey and eagles soar along the river, and Maine people and visitors paddle what feels like a wilderness river.
More than 100 people gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary. The voices of the day heralded the accomplishments and recovery over the first 10 years since dam removal. Watch a video from the 10th anniversary celebration.
2011 Nearly three million alewives pass the Benton Falls lift.
2014 Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife counts 58 Bald Eagles in one day (June 6) in a five-mile stretch of the Sebasticook River. This likely is the largest gathering of Bald Eagles in the Northeast and possible anywhere north of the Chesapeake.
2018 More than five million alewives passed the Benton Falls lift, which makes this alewife run the largest in the entire United States.
2019 NRCM and others gathered on the banks of the Kennebec River to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the removal of the Edwards Dam, and announced plans to create an educational display at the dam site.