We Need Cooperation and Tempered Rhetoric on Kennebec Dams

By Sen. Scott Cyrway

Having read Amy Calder’s June 22 story regarding fish restoration on the Kennebec River, I applaud the cooperative effort of all those involved in the activities at the Lockwood Dam on June 15. We need more of this.

From the story, it appeared that Brookfield Renewable, the facility owner, worked together with the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to protect the fish habitat near Lockwood Dam while the facility had its flashboards repaired.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the DMR, Trout Unlimited, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation to dismiss that cooperative spirit and go on the attack against the hydro-energy facilities along the lower Kennebec River.  We need less of this.

These groups have long been trying to close these dams behind the scenes without any stakeholder involvement.  Now they have taken their campaign public and will try to use any means necessary to drive their agenda.  Instead of bait and switch public relations techniques, these groups should be engaged in serious and productive conversations about the future of the river.  Those discussions should include the businesses, taxpayers and recreational users of the Kennebec River and not just the media.

Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released a draft environmental assessment related to the relicensing of the Shawmut Dam in Benton. This assessment not only concludes that the Atlantic salmon and the four Kennebec dams targeted by environmental extremists can successfully co-exist, but that the same, state of the art fish lift that Brookfield is building at Shawmut has achieved 100% effectiveness at another dam in Milford, Maine.

Despite what these groups continue to claim, FERC, which regulates 2,500 dams in the U.S. and 102 in Maine, has concluded that “Brookfield’s proposal to continue to operate (Shawmut Dam) in a run-of-river mode…would result in infrequent and minimal disturbances to aquatic and riparian habitat.”

Since it is now clear from the assessment that FERC intends to issue the new license for Shawmut, perhaps all of the groups concerned can come together, abandon the harsh and false rhetoric, and work toward improving the population of Atlantic salmon on the Kennebec River. The fish can coexist with the dams and the clean, hydroelectric power they produce.

Sen. Scott Cyrway of Albion represents District 16 in the Maine State Senate

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