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.
1839 — Major breach of dam
1842-1846 — Dam powers seven 7 saw mills, a grist mill, and a machine shop.
1846 — Major breach of dam
1855 — Major breach of dam
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 providing 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 the sale.
1974 — 150′ of dam washes out in winter flood.
1975 — Dam repaired despite pleas from fisheries biologists.
Early 1980s — Textile mill ceases operation. All workers laid off.
1984 — Edwards Manufacturing Co. signs 15-year contract to sell electricity at approximately 3 times market price to Central Maine Power.
1986 — Maine Department of Marine Resources initiates fisheries restoration for alewife.
- 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 refuses to participate.
- Kennebec River Anglers Coalition formed to advocate for dam removal and fisheries restoration.
1988 — Edwards installs experimental fish pump to assist KHDG fisheries restoration effort.
- Kennebec Coalition (American Rivers, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the 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.
- Hydro generation equipment rebuilt following fire. Remains of mill buildings demolished.
- Edwards applies for new 50 year license to expand capacity from 3.5 to 11.5 megawatts.
- Governor John 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 provide 3% of gross revenues to the city.
- 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 megawatt expansion and amend their application to maintain status quo electrical capacity.
- FERC issues preliminary recommendations to relicense the dam with fish passage.
- US Fish & Wildlife Service specifies $9 million fish passage design.
- Kennebec Coalition files extensive comments on FERC recommendations.
1997 — FERC reverses preliminary decision as Final Environmental Impact Statement recommends dam removal, ruling that economic and environmental benefits of dam removal exceed hydropower benefits. FERC orders dam removal at owner’s expense. Edwards/Augusta begin the appeals process.
May 26, 1998
- Settlement agreement signed.
- 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 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.
January 1, 1999 — State of Maine acquires the site.
February 25, 1999 — All generating equipment sold at public auction.
Late May, 1999 — Contractor began mobilization of equipment for dam removal.
Memorial Day, 1999 — Hundreds of thousands of sea-run fish gather below the Edwards Dam on their spring spawning migration, unable to reach their upstream spawning habitat.
June 16, 1999 — Coffer dam construction begins.
July 1, 1999 — Dam breached and removal began.
Autumn, 1999 — Atlantic salmon have free swim access to the an additional 18 miles of the Kennebec River.
Spring, 2000 — All of the sea-run fish had free swim access to the restored 18 miles of spawning habitat between Augusta and Waterville for the first time since 1837.
- FERC denies industry’s requests for rehearing of Edwards removal orders thus affirming FERC’s right to remove the dam.
- 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
- Lockwood Dam fish lift constructed and operational in Waterville to provide passage to upper portions of the Kennebec River. 4094 river herring and 15 sea-run Atlantic salmon are lifted in the first year. Shad do not use the fish lift, although they are caught nearby by anglers.
- Fish lifts 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
2011 — Nearly 3,000,000 alewives pass the Benton Falls lift, a record that still stands!
2014 — Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife counts 58 Bald Eagles in one day (June 6) in a 5-mile stretch of the Sebasticook. This likely is the largest gathering of Bald Eagles in the Northeast and possible anywhere north of the Chesapeake.
2018 — More than 5,000,000 alewives passed the Benton Falls lift, which makes this alewife run the largest in the entire United States! Read more about this from NRCM Staff Scientist Nick Bennett.