Old News Archive

Penobscot River Restoration Trust

May 31, 2006 - TRC

Vision of the Penobscot River once again teeming with life while continuing to generate energy is closer to becoming a reality

Old Town - A restored Penobscot River once again teeming with Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fish while continuing to generate hydropower energy is much closer to becoming a reality. Today, dam owner PPL Corporation, the Penobscot Indian Nation, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust and a range of government agencies and conservation groups announced that PPL is increasing energy production on the river, and reaffirmed the parties’ continued commitment to work together to rebalance hydropower and fisheries on the Penobscot.

“As we celebrate the annual return of sea-run fish to the Penobscot River, we also applaud this increase in energy as part of an innovative agreement that will yield significant benefits for fisheries and wildlife, revitalize culture and tradition, and offer new and improved recreational and business opportunities,” said Laura Rose Day, Executive Director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. “The project is on target with significant success raising funds, building diverse, bipartisan support, and preparing for restoration of this legendary river.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection approved energy increases at PPL Corporation’s dams in West Enfield, Medway, and Stillwater. As a result, PPL Corporation is increasing their generation at these dams to produce an additional 10,000 MW-hours of electricity this year. A total increase of up to 25,751 megawatt hours has been approved over the next 4-6 years.

This energy boost is part of the Penobscot River Restoration Agreement, an innovative agreement to re-balance hydropower generation and restore historic runs of river herring, Atlantic salmon, and other sea-run fish on the Penobscot River.

“PPL Corporation is committed to being a good corporate citizen and a valuable partner in the communities where we do business,” said Dennis Murphy, vice president and chief operating officer of PPL’s Eastern Fossil and Hydro Generation unit. “We’re working with the Penobscot River Restoration Trust to help ensure that all of the benefits from this project are realized for the environment, and for the community.”

The unprecedented collaboration between dam owners PPL Corporation, the Penobscot Indian Nation, state and federal agencies, and seven conservation groups will improve access to 500 miles of habitat within the Penobscot River watershed for 11 species of migratory fish. With these first phase energy increases, the project fulfills one of several expected benefits.

“Spring on the Penobscot River may once again bring historic runs of alewives, blueback herring, and American shad stretching from bank to bank as they migrate to spawning grounds on the river and her tributaries,” says Chief James Sappier, Penobscot Indian Nation. “The Penobscot Nation looks forward to the day we celebrate the return of the fish along with the hydropower generation on the river, and participate in the revitalization of our culture that will follow.”

Under this innovative agreement, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust holds an option to purchase three Penobscot River dams from PPL Corporation, removing the two dams closest to the sea -- Veazie and Great Works – and decommissioning the Howland dam, where the Trust is pursuing plans to construct an innovative fish bypass to allow sea-run fish to swim around the dam. The project provides a myriad of benefits to the entire river corridor and Gulf of Maine while maintaining essentially all of the existing hydropower generation. The agreement provides PPL Corporation with the opportunity for additional energy increases, to maintain about 96% of current energy production on the river as well as maintain current job levels.

The Penobscot River watershed is the second largest in New England. At the heart of Maine, the watershed drains one third of the state (an area of 8,570 square miles), and is the largest freshwater source into the Gulf of Maine.

“Restored fish runs on the lower Penobscot River will benefit bald eagles, osprey, river otter and other wildlife throughout the watershed,” says Gordon Russell, project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field office in Old Town, ME. “Millions of fish returning to the river will increase nutrient flow between the river and Penobscot Bay, bolstering stocks of cod and other valuable marine fishes, and we can look forward to enhanced opportunities for recreational angling for striped bass, shad, and salmon.”

Over time the project is expected to rebuild the once massive stocks of migratory fish that experts believe collectively served as a forage base for nearshore populations of cod and other groundfish in the Penobscot region. The potential of this project to benefit groundfish as well as other marine life is drawing interest in the project from throughout the Gulf of Maine.

The not-for-profit Penobscot River Restoration Trust holds a 3-5-year option to purchase the dams from PPL Corporation for approximately $25 million. The Trust is actively seeking acquisition funds from a combination of public and private sources. Maine’s Congressional Delegation has been instrumental in securing more than $4 million dollars in federal funds for the project and is requesting an additional $14 million from various sources in the 2007 budget. The Trust anticipates removing the most seaward dams and pursuing the bypass sometime between 2008 and 2010.

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust (PRRT) is a nonprofit corporation whose member organizations include the Penobscot Indian Nation, American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Audubon, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited, and whose mission is to implement the Penobscot River Restoration Agreement.

Contact: Cheryl Daigle, Penobscot River Restoration Trust, Community Liaison and Outreach Coordinator (207) 232-9969
Contact: Paul Wirth, PPL Corporation, (610) 774-5532

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.