An ambitious project to remove dams on Maine's Penobscot River is moving forward. Under the terms of a settlement agreement among previous dam owners, environmental and conservation groups, and governmental agencies, two of the dams -- Veazie and Great Works -- will be removed, while fish passage will be installed at the Howland dam on the Piscataquis River.
This dam removal project is the ultimate result of the 2004 Lower Penobscot Basin
Comprehensive Settlement Accord. In 2010, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the dam owner's surrender of its licenses to operate hydroelectric facilities and proposed dam removal. Later that year, dam owner PPL conveyed the dams to the Penobscot River Restoration Trust.
As part of the dam removal process, FERC requires the Trust to develop a schedule for mitigating the adverse impacts of dam removal on infrastructure. For example, an industrial facility draws water from the Great Works impoundment, and a wastewater treatment plant discharges 1.5 million gallons per day into the reservoir. A railroad bridge also crosses the area, and buried beneath the waters lies an older incarnation of the Great Works Dam which may block fish passage once the modern dam is removed. The Trust proposed to remove that older dam's submerged portions as part of the primary dam removal project.
Earlier this month, FERC approved the Trust's mitigation schedule for the Great Works project. FERC also granted the Trust an extension until the end of 2012 to file similar mitigation plans for the Veazie and Howland projects.