Sen. Cyrway’s Public Comments on the Kennebec River Plan Amendment

Note: The Department of Marine Resources is taking public comments on an amendment to its fish management plan, most notably Atlantic Salmon, until February 26, 2021. This is part of an official rulemaking process and you can submit your own comments to the Department at this email address: dmr.rulemaking@maine.gov.

COMMENTS OF SENATOR SCOTT CYRWAY ON THE KENNEBEC RIVER DIADROMOUS RESOURCES AMENDMENT FOR PUBLIC HEARING – 2/16/21

With disappointment I have read the draft Diadromous Resources Amendment, from the Department of Marine Resources. Specifically, I take issue with its recommendation for removal of two dams and the consideration of removing two others.

On page 34: “As a state agency responsible for managing diadromous fish and their habitat, MDMR recommends that the Shawmut Project and the Lockwood Project be decommissioned, and the dams removed. MDMR also recommends that the Hydro-Kennebec and Weston projects be considered for decommissioning and removal.”

According to Maine DEP, the Shawmut Dam alone includes “two powerhouses containing eight turbine/generator units, which generate on average 53,689 MWh of electricity annually.” This is enough to power 45,000 Maine homes with clean, renewable energy.

Aside from their value as producers of climate-friendly electricity, these dams represent $20 million in taxable property value to just three cities in one section of the river, namely, Waterville, Fairfield, and Benton. Removing them would have a negative impact on the property values of residents in neighboring communities as we have seen with the removal of other dams in the state.

One only has to travel a short distance to Winslow to see the disastrous results for local property owners that resulted from the removal of the Fort Halifax Dam on the Sebasticook River in 2008.

While I recognize the value of Atlantic Salmon to our state, I also believe strongly that all of the viable options for protecting this species should be considered, especially those that have the least impact on the communities along the river. Unfortunately, it seems the Department has chosen to recommend the option that has the greatest negative impact.

Once these comments have been submitted, I hope that the Department will consider the harm that these actions would have on these communities and change their recommendation to those that leave the dams intact, while finding ways to accommodate the needs of the salmon.

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