The Second Huge Dam on Maine’s Penobscot River Comes Down, Opening Miles of Habitat for Anadromous Fishes

Yesterday saw yet another momentous step in the completion of the $62 million Penobscot River Restoration Project—a collaboration among the hydropower company that owned the river’s dams, state and federal officials, conservation groups, and the Penobscot Indian Nation—which Orvis has supported since 2008. That year, the Orvis Customer Matching Grant program raised over $50,000 for the project.

Last fall, the Great Works Dam in Bangor was removed, and now work has commenced on taking down the Veazie Dam between Veazie and Eddington. Once Veazie Dam is down, the river will flow free from Milford to the sea, which will open up miles of historic habitat. A state-of-the-art fish bypass around the Milford and Howland Dams upstream will allow Atlantic salmon and other species to access their native spawning streams.

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Click here to visit the Penobscot River Restoration Trust website.


The Veazie Dam has blocked fish migrations for more than a century.

From the Original Orvis Commitment Page Launched in 2008:

The Resource

The Penobscot River. For more than 10,000 years, the Penobscot Indian Nation has lived at the heart of this great river’s watershed. The largest watershed in Maine and the second largest in New England, the Penobscot drains 8,570 square miles of forests and wetlands. For most of that 10,000 years the Penobscot tribe navigated the river by birch bark canoe completely unobstructed by dams on a wild free-flowing river. They traveled up and down the river to and from the mouth of the Gulf of Maine. As well, eleven species of native fish migrated and spawned throughout the river system. Today, the Penobscot Reservation is made of the islands, riverbed, and waters above Milford Dam.

The Problem
Dams. Since dams were first placed nearly 200 years ago, the life that once pulsed through the Penobscot River and its region has been significantly changed. The dams do not allow the Penobscot tribe free river travel. They also adversely affect angling and paddling opportunities, and diminish the tribe’s and other local communities’ ability to thrive as successfully as they might otherwise. The fishery the Penobscot Indian Nation once depended on has been all but decimated. Runs of tens of thousands of Atlantic salmon, American shad, alewife, rainbow smelt, sturg

eon, striped bass, and nearly half a dozen more native species of fish that once migrated from the Gulf of Maine into the river are all but gone. The tribe’s treaty-reserved fishing

rights and many sacred traditions are inextricably linked to the health of the river. The river’s restoration is critical to their cultural survival and a key step in allowing their traditions to continue, and native species to once again migrate and spawn in it.

Partnering for a Solution
The restoration of the Penobscot River is an historical large-scale effort to remove both the Great Works and the Veazie Dams and to decommission and build a state-of-the-art fish bypass around Howland Dam. Prior success of dam removal was accomplished before through an Orvis project with the removal of Edwards Dam on Maine’s Kennebec River. Dozens of private, business, and government entities, often at odds in their vision of river ecosystems, have come together with the goal to regain the tremendous benefits to biological and human communities along the river that a healthy free-flowing river offers. As a result of the Penobscot project, for the first time in nearly 200 years, hundreds of miles of habitat along the Penobscot and its tributaries will be re-opened for unobstructed travel on the river. A restored Penobscot River will renew tribal, angling, paddling, business, and social opportunities, and create connections to the river sure to foster future conservation efforts. The restoration will have the largest positive impact on the Penobscot Indian Nation, whose historical ties to the Penobscot go back more than 10,000 years.

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