by Dawn Gagnon, BDN staff
VEAZIE, Maine â The organization behind a key conservation project on the Penobscot River has been awarded a major grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, members of the state’s congressional delegation announced last week.
The Penobscot River Restoration Trust will receive a $1 million national coastal wetland conservation grant for dam removal and the restoration of habitat on nearly 300 acres of the Penobscot River, improving wetland habitats along the river for native sea-run fish, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree announced.
“The landmark Penobscot River Restoration project prioritizes the needs of the local communities, important economic uses, energy generation, and the restoration of the great historic fisheries of the river, Collins and King said in a joint statement. “These grant investments will assist these partnership efforts in restoring and maintaining Maine’s natural resources for the benefit and enjoyment of generations to come.”
“I grew up and worked along the Penobscot River and have fought to protect it in the Maine Legislature and in Washington D.C.,” Michaud said in a joint statement with Pingree. “This grant provides critical support for the next step of the Penobscot River Restoration Project. Fishing, paddling, birding and hunting will be strengthened and new opportunities for river-focused development will present themselves for cities and towns along the waterway.”
Added Pingree: “The removal of dams on the Penobscot River is key to bringing back several sea-run fish populations.”
According to supporters of the project, removing the century-old Veazie Dam will restore about 225 acres of in-stream habitat and about 65 acres of streamside habitat, while enhancing the connectivity and functional value of 188,000 acres of wetland habitats for native sea-run fish, including endangered Atlantic salmon, endangered shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon and eight other fish species.
The project is a joint effort between the Penobscot Indian Nation, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, six other non-governmental organizations, the State of Maine, the Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and hydropower companies.