Removal of Veazie Dam Begins on Maine’s Penobscot River

Removal of Veazie Dam on Maine’s Penobscot River begins July 22, 2013. Photo courtesy Penobscot River Restoration Trust

Today is a big day for dam removal and river restoration. Removal of the Veazie Dam begins on Maine’s Penobscot River – one of the most significant river restoration projects in our country, and a wonderful example of collaboration and “win-win” solutions for the environment and economy.

Because of the threats from existing or proposed dams, American Rivers named the Penobscot one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers every year from 1989 to 1996. After more than a decade of work by American Rivers, the Penobscot Restoration Trust, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and others, the river restoration project kicked off last summer with the removal of Great Works Dam.

That dam removal, the demolition of Veazie Dam (20-feet high and 1,072-feet long), along with the installation of fish passage at other dams will open access to 1,000 miles of habitat for Atlantic salmon and other native sea-run fish.

No other dam removal project has opened access to that much habitat.

The project will also revive cultural traditions and boost recreation and economic opportunities. And, thanks to local investments in hydropower production, we will be able to maintain and possibly increase the amount of energy generated on the river. What’s more, the Penobscot restoration effort will create more than 180 jobs.

Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, commented on this historic restoration effort: “As the waters flow free and the fish return, the Penobscot is a symbol of partnership, resilience, and hope. We are grateful to all of our partners who worked so hard to make the dream of a healthy Penobscot River a reality. The Penobscot’s renaissance will benefit Maine and the nation for generations to come.”

More and more communities across the country are embracing dam removal as a way to restore river health and fisheries, address aging infrastructure and safety issues, create recreation opportunities, and revitalize local economies.

Roughly 1,100 dams have been removed nationwide over the past 100 years. Ninety-six dams have been removed in New England, with 26 dams removed in Maine alone.

And while the effort on the Penobscot is sure to grab headlines, it’s not the only game in town this summer. Other dam removals are beginning in the coming weeks on the Taunton River (MA), Town Brook (MA), Battenkill River (VT), Raritan River (NJ), and Delaware River tributaries (PA).

For supporters of free-flowing rivers, there’s a lot to celebrate this summer.

Check out this live feed of the dam removal:

Video streaming by Ustream

Amy Kober is the senior communications director for American Rivers, a national non-profit river conservation organization. She lives in Portland, OR.
  • Holly Staffieri

    This just makes me SO happy!! Channel 5 news led with this story today and I yelled with joy! Right On, Maine! I am proud to live here when I see Maine environmentalists winning, especially with our present governor — quite the battle.

    Holly Staffieri
    Midcoast ME

  • Mike

    Remove the dam, causes higher power rates, and that dam had really good bass fishing behind it, now that bass fishing will be gone. And don’t forget there is another dam before and after that one. Also in the past dams are removed and the salmon never returned, so removing it is a waste of money and the good electricity that was being produced from the dam. It is not a win win, its a lose lose.

  • Wynette Yao

    Fantastic news for all kinds of wildlife! I’d like to know more about how hydropower also made gains.

    Good work!

  • Amy Kober

    Mike – Veazie is actually the lowermost dam on the river. The project is expected to benefit many species of fish. With Veazie’s removal, endangered shortnose sturgeon, threatened Atlantic sturgeon, striped bass, tomcod and rainbow smelt will have open access to 100% of their historic habitat in the Penobscot. Combined with the Great Works Dam removal in 2012 and fish passage improvements to be completed at Milford and Howland dams, the Veazie Dam removal is a key component of the historic effort to greatly improve access to 1000 miles of habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon, American shad, alewife, and eight other species of sea-run fish.

    As for power, project partner Black Bear Hydro is completing projects to increase energy generation at six dams including the Stillwater and Orono dams that will maintain and likely increase hydropower generation. Once Veazie Dam is removed, Milford Dam will become the lowermost dam on the river. Black Bear is constructing a fish lift at Milford and making additional fish passage improvements at dams elsewhere in the watershed.

  • Geoff Wingard

    There are plenty of bass in Maine – and they’re not even native! In fact, I was bass fishing yesterday on the Stillwater River, which is maintained by two dams in the watershed that will not be removed. This project will enhance sea run fisheries, increase power generation through the modernization of secondary dams and protect a river system that’s been degraded for two hundred years. It is truly an example of an excellent partnership between industry and the public interest.

  • john piccirilli

    July 22 , 2113 today the last of maine,s foolish wind turbines was removed and trees planted……….

  • Brice Li

    Dam Good News!!!

  • Paul

    Here on the other coast, two (illegally built) dams on the Elwha River are almost completely gone and salmon have already returned. Every river of any size in the upper latitudes was once a thriving salmon stream (the book King Salmon has more detail). I hope the Penobscot runs are also restored.

    “The lower river will flow freely from Milford to the sea, allowing endangered shortnose sturgeon, threatened Atlantic sturgeon, rainbow smelt, tomcod, and striped bass access to 100% of their historic habitat.” Sounds like a win to me.

  • Frenchy 28

    Does “live feed” not mean just that? It’s showing yesterdays events

  • Susie O’Keeffe

    Mike – Bass are non-native species. I realize that the easy catch of a big fish may be more important to many people than the long term health and diversity of the river, but nature can and will heal and flourish if we let her.

    As far as electricity is concerned, we have a huge task in front of us–learning not to waste is the first step. Right now the way we use energy is outrageous. More than half (58%) of the total energy produced in the US is wasted due to inefficiencies, such as waste heat from power plants, vehicles, and light bulbs. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2011-04-energy_1.html#jCp

    Not to mention all the lights and electronics that burn continuously in towns, cities, private homes, etc. No supermarket or bank needs lights on all the time, no home needs electronics on stand-by, for example. They need motion activated systems, and the like.

    For me personally, this small step toward rewilding the Penobscot is profoundly moving for countless reasons. My European ancestors came here and systematically destroyed the cultures of the native people, and this includes the ravaging of the abundant wildlife. Imagine someone coming to your home, forcing you to give up your children, sending them to schools where they could not speak their language, know their own culture? And, when they return to you, you cannot even speak with them! Not to mention that In these schools they are being, more often than not, beaten, abused and sometimes raped. Meanwhile the land that you love, and the people that you love, and all the abundance that sustains you, are being destroyed. This, and so much more, is what we did, and we did it because we institutionalized greed, raised it to a level of a virtue, and hid it behind our self proclaimed manifest destiny, and a religion that severs our ability to experience the mysterious sanctity in all life. This nation will never be “great” until we fully admit that our founding history stands on these terrible violences of genocide and ecocide–destruction which continues to this day in both insidious and blatant ways.

    The earth yearns to provide for all beings. Our rivers could once again run thick with fish, but it is up to us to come to a new level of consciousness, one that transcends the false idea that we control nature, are separate and superior to her.

    Fishing is not about a person’s ego, it is about receiving a gift. The true hunter, the true fisherman (woman) is humbled before this gift, is quiet and deeply thankful and also remorseful for the life that has been given for her or his own. This humble gratitude is the sign of the truly great hunter/fisherman. Sadly, there are very, very few of these people. Some of the natives, though they all struggle with the terrible and seemingly endless consequences of genocide, still hold to this wisdom. We desperately need to learn from them, and to help them.

    The future of our planet depends on whether or not we can build on these examples–whether or not we can become wise, humble and compassionate members of the life community.

    You and I may never catch a wild Atlantic Salmon, or see the great Sturgeons of old, but if we each awaken to the full extent possible, there could be a generation of young people who do. Making a world for these children that is fecund, diverse and beautiful, (not filled with genetically twisted, greed driven atrocities), is our true work.

    The take down of the Veazie is a small step, but it is most certainly a move in the right direction. I celebrate it with all of my being.

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