Celebrating the Penobscot River’s Revival: Removing Great Works Dam
June 11, 2012
Indian Island, Old Town, Maine
June 11, 2012, was 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, of which NRCM was a founding member. 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 increased energy development at its other facilities in the river system. The decommissioning and removal of the Great Works Dam was part of a broad collaborative effort that eventually included removal of the Veazie Dam and creation of new, upstream fish passage at Milford and Howland Dams. The Project improved access to nearly 2,000 miles of historic fish habitat, benefitting 11 species of native sea-run fish including endangered Atlantic salmon. The entire Project took 16 years to complete.
Imagine the Penobscot teeming with fish—shad, striped bass, sturgeon, and alewives. They are all important to our Gulf of Maine ground fisheries. Imagine thousands of Atlantic salmon pulsing through its waters. This is what the people of the Penobscot Nation experienced centuries ago on the river, the lifeblood of their culture. The Penobscot Project was 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.
NRCM and our partners gathered on the banks of the Penobscot River for a a day of activities, as we witnessed the start of the removal of the Great Works Dam that has blocked the river for 200 years. Throughout the day there were a wide array of activities to celebrate this momentous occasion.
The day kicked off at Sockalexis Hall with a live broadcast from the site where dismantling of the Great Works Dam began. The Penobscot Nation then hosted a community-wide luncheon with ceremonial drumming and remarks by Project leaders. The celebration continued with opportunities to explore interactive and cultural exhibits, canoe on the river, and participate in other activities on Indian Island. The day culminated with a final community-wide celebration in the late afternoon.
About the Speakers
A wide array of dignitaries offered remarks at this event; both at the actual breaching as well as at Sockalexis Hall. These dignitaries included, among others:
- Ken Salazar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior
- Commissioner Pat Keliher, Maine Department of Marine Resources on behalf of State of Maine
- Eric Schwaab, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management, NOAA
- Maine’s Congressional Delegation or their representatives
- Lisa Pohlmann, CEO of the Natural Resources Council of Maine
- Representatives from our partner organizations as well as the local business community
News Stories about the Great Works Dam Removal
- Decommissioning Dams: The Penobscot’s Song The Economist news story and video | Jun 14, 2012
- Dam Removal to Help Restore Spawning Grounds New York Times news story | Jun 12, 2012
- Saving a River, and Its Species New York Times editorial | Jun 12, 2012
- Hat Trick On The Penobscot River: Fewer Dams, Same Energy, More Fish Forbes.com news story | Jun 12, 2012
- Crews Begin Removing Great Works Dam; Kenneth Salazar Calls Effort ‘Milestone for River Conservation’ Bangor Daily News news story | Jun 12, 2012
- LePage Should Have Attended Dam Ceremony Portland Press Herald editorial | Jun 12, 2012
- Great Collaboration, Work Behind Great Works Dam Removal Bangor Daily News editorial | Jun 12, 2012
- "A Great Day" as Dam Removal Begins Portland Press Herald news story | Jun 12, 2012
- 'It’s Easy for People in Maine to Forget What a Big Deal This Is' Portland Press Herald news story | Jun 11, 2012
- Maine Dam Removal Aims to Rescue Fish Species Boston Globe news story | Jun 11, 2012
- A Damned Dam on the Penobscot River NPR news story | Jun 11, 2012
- Recovering a River Maine Sunday Telegram news story | Jun 10, 2012
- Edwards Dam Success Foreshadows Penobscot River Project’s Future Bangor Daily News news story | Jun 09, 2012
- Celebrating a Big Moment for the Penobscot River Bangor Daily News op-ed | Jun 08, 2012
- LePage Objects to Long-Planned Removal of Penobscot River Dam MPBN news story | Jun 06, 2012
Veazie Dam Breaching Celebration & Commemoration
Hundreds of people joined us on July 22, 2013, as we Reconnected the Penobscot River to the Sea!
This event reopened the Penobscot River to the sea so that Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, river herring, American shad, and other species of sea-run fish can swim freely all the way to Old Town for the first time in nearly 200 years!
Breaching the Veazie Dam marked a monumental step in the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which sought to restore self-sustaining populations of sea-run fish to the Penobscot River watershed by opening migration paths between the ocean and upstream habitat critical to rebuilding fish populations. Reconnecting the river to the sea is revitalizing culture, recreation, ecological health, and economic opportunities for the region and Maine.
Media from Veazie Dam Breaching
- A River In the Balance Bangor Daily News editorial
- Dam’s Demolition Renews Hopes for Restored Penobscot River Fish Runs MPBN news story
- Dam Removal Tells New Chapter in Maine History Maine Sunday Telegram editorial
- Hopes for a Fish Revival as a Dam Is Demolished New York Times news story
- Removal of Veazie Dam to Free Historic Paddling Route on Penobscot Bangor Daily News news story
- ‘Ah, Freedom’: Historic Penobscot Dam Removal Begins Portland Press Herald news story
- Breaching of Veazie Dam Begins as Part of Penobscot River Restoration Bangor Daily News news story
- Down Comes Another Dam New York Times editorial
- Breaching of Dam, Restoring Salmon’s Passage Unite Many Boston Globe news story
- Veazie Dam Demolition Begins on Penobscot River Sun Journal news story