Dear Senator Saviello, Representative Hamper, and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:
The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) urges you to vote ought not to pass on LD 1718, “An Act To Improve Maine’s Capacity To Produce Low-cost Renewable Energy through Hydroelectric Power.” NRCM is Maine’s largest environmental advocacy group with 12,000 members and supporters.
A large part of NRCM’s work focuses on restoration of the great diadromous fish runs that used to fill our rivers, streams, and lakes. Diadromous fish are species that live in the ocean but spawn in freshwater (such as salmon and alewives) or that live in freshwater but spawn in the ocean (such as eels). Alewife and eel harvesting still provide jobs for hundreds of people in Maine, and these species were a valuable source of food for Mainers in the past. Moreover, the decline of diadromous fish is linked to the precipitous decline in near shore ground fisheries, such as cod (1), that also used to be a major source of food and employment to Maine people. We often talk about the importance of energy security in Maine, but food security is also important. Restored populations of diadromous fish would greatly increase the availability of local sources of protein.
LD 1718 would be a major hindrance to restoration of diadromous fish in Maine by preventing the installation of fish passage at dams and the judicious removal of obsolete dams. It would also likely threaten the ability of dam owners to comply with federal fish passage requirements because they would be unable to receive state permits. This could result in litigation and extra cost for dam owners.
Finally, this bill and the sponsor’s statement in his testimony that he favored a moratorium on dam removal seem to be based on an assumption that people either are removing large numbers of hydropower dams or are planning to do so. Neither is the case. I have attached an op-ed by Dana Murch, who used to be the hydro-power coordinator for DEP. In it he states:
Today, total installed hydroelectric power generation capacity using Maine’s lakes, rivers, and streams exceeds 760 megawatts, more than all other renewable sources in Maine (including wind, solar, biomass, and waste incineration) combined. Even counting the generation lost from the removal of the Fort Halifax Dam in and the earlier removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta, the increase in Maine hydroelectric power generation since the first energy crisis in 1979 has been almost 200 megawattsâ¦
The hydropower industry is alive and well in Maine. A bill to cripple fish passage installation and prevent removals of obsolete dams is not necessary to keep it that way.
Please vote ought not to pass on LD 1718.
 See, for example, www.bowdoin.edu/news/archives/1academicnews/007480.shtml