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: