Statement by Brownie Carson, NRCM executive director
I am delighted to participate in this historic announcement aimed at creating a new future for the Penobscot River.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine is proud of the role we have played in reaching a truly remarkable agreement that few people could have imagined was possible.
The Penobscot River represents perhaps the nation’s last, best hope for restoring runs of Atlantic salmon – a magnificent fish that once surged by the tens of thousands past the current site of the Veazie Dam, past the current site of the Great Works Dam, past Indian Island, and deep into Maine’s forested landscape.
But those days are gone. The salmon weirs that once lined the shores of this river can only be seen in history books. The salmon club anglers who once competed to catch the season’s first are now legally prohibited from landing any salmon. The tradition of sending the first Atlantic salmon caught each year in the Penobscot River to the U.S. President was terminated in 1994. And this year, fewer than 1,000 Atlantic salmon returned to the river – an increase over previous years, but a mere vestige of the miracle of life once displayed in this river when salmon were king of the Penobscot.
But this project is about more than opening up 500 miles of habitat for salmon and 10 other species of sea run fish. It’s about translating our hopes and values into a new reality for this river – a reality that fits with the priorities for our society in the 21st century.
Through this project, individuals, agencies, organizations, and an enlightened hydropower company – each with different perspectives, constituencies, and goals – came together around a common vision for this river. In many ways, the agreement that we have reached represents a tribute to the Penobscot – all of us appreciate what this river has provided to the people, communities, wildlife, and fisheries of this state in the past, and we are excited about how a reconfigured hydropower system will better serve the needs of the natural world and human society in the future.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine thanks PPL Corporation, the Governor, Maine’s natural resource agencies, Penobscot Indian Nation, the Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, and our colleagues in the conservation community who helped to make this agreement possible. We look forward to working with communities along the river, our congressional delegation, and interested people throughout the state to make this agreement a reality.