Penobscot River dam removal starts

Monday, June 11, 2012

Demolition of the Great Works dam on Maine's Penobscot River began this morning.  The dam removal marks the first major physical change to the Penobscot riverscape following the 2004 Lower Penobscot Basin Comprehensive Settlement Accord.  This landmark agreement led the Penobscot River Restoration Trust to acquire two dams on the river for $24 million - the Great Works and Veazie dams - and ultimately to the dams' removal.

The Great Works dam was originally built in the late 1800s to provide water and waterpower to a series of lumber and paper mills.  Over time, hydroelectric facilities were added to the dam.  By its end, the facility included a powerhouse containing 11 turbine-generator units totaling about 8 MW of installed capacity.

Although the dam included several fish passage facilities, environmentalists and fishery agencies considered the river's overall fish passage structures and accessible habitat inadequate.  After years of advocacy and negotiations, in 2004 seven conservation groups, the Penobscot Indian Nation, state and federal agencies and then-dam owner PPL agreed to a comprehensive settlement that would remove the Great Works and Veazie dams but allow six other dams that will remain on the Penobscot and its tributaries to produce more electricity.

After the Great Works dam removal is complete, the Veazie dam 7 miles downstream will be next to be removed, the Howland Dam on the upstream tributary Piscataquis River will be decommissioned and bypassed, and a fish lift will be installed at the Milford Dam.  Overall, the project is estimated to cost $62 million.

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