Penobscot river courtesy of the University of Maine

Penobscot river courtesy of the University of Maine

information taken from www.penobscotriver.org

Timeline

The Penobscot River Restoration Project will happen gradually over several years, and involves changes in energy operations and re-licensing requirements, outreach to communities within the project area and to the public in general, planning for economic and community development activities related to the river’s restoration, and private and public fundraising:

  • During Phase 1 of the project, PPL Corporation applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for energy increases at West Enfield, Medway and Stillwater hydroelectric dams. These energy enhancements have been approved, resulting in the addition of 10,000 MW-hours of annual generation.
  • PPL Corporation also began to address impacts of energy operations on tribal lands.
  • Following the signing of the final agreement on June 25th, 2004, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust (Penobscot Trust) has a 3-5 year option period during which time the dams must be purchased. The Penobscot Trust and partners reached significant milestones in late 2007 by raising the $25 million needed to purchase the Veazie, Great Works and Howland Dams. The Penobscot Trust will continue to work with partners to raise the subsequent funding to implement the removals, alterations, mitigation and economic development elements of the project.  The preliminary estimate for project implementation, including dam removal and modifications, economic development and mitigation, is approximately $30 million.
  • With FERC’s approval, the re-licensing of the Howland and Great Works dams has been put on hold for five years to provide the opportunity for successful implementation of the project.
  • Preliminary engineering work for removal of the Veazie and Great Works Dams and for the Howland bypass option is underway.
  • The filing of the agreement with FERC also signifies the beginning of the federal and state regulatory process for the project, during which the public will have multiple opportunities to comment. The Penobscot Trust held formal public scoping sessions in December of 2007 as part of this process. Since the project was first announced, the Penobscot Trust and partners have participated in well over a hundred presentations, community meetings, and public events within the project area and statewide.

Unprecedented Collaboration

Partners in the Penobscot River Restoration Project, including the Penobscot Indian Nation, American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Trout Unlimited, working with the U.S. Department of Interior, the State of Maine, and PPL Corporation, the dam owners, negotiated a final agreement that will redefine the Penobscot River over the coming years. The Nature Conservancy joined as a full partner in 2006.

The agreement, filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in June of 2005 lays out a roadmap for restoring the river that will:

  • Restore self sustaining populations of native sea-run fish, such as the endangered Atlantic salmon, through improved access to nearly 1,000 miles of historic habitat;
  • Renew opportunities for the Penobscot Indian Nation to exercise sustenance fishing rights;
  • Create new opportunities for tourism, business and communities;
  • Resolve longstanding disputes and avoid future uncertainties over the regulation of the river.

This unprecedented and innovative agreement will allow:

  • The Penobscot River Restoration Trust (PRRT) the option to purchase three dams from PPL Corporation, and subsequently remove the two lowermost dams on the river: Veazie and Great Works;
  • The PRRT, after obtaining the approval of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, to decommission and pursue construction of a state-of-the-art fish bypass around the third dam, Howland, that will, if found feasible maintain the impoundment;
  • PPL Corporation the opportunity to increase generation at six existing dams, which would result in maintaining essentially all of the current energy generation;
  • PPL Corporation to improve fish passage at four additional dams.

The final agreement was signed by PPL Corporation; the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureaus of Fish and Wildlife, and Indian Affairs, and the National Park Service; four State of Maine natural resource agencies – the State Planning Office, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Atlantic Salmon Commission; the Penobscot Indian Nation; American Rivers; Atlantic Salmon Federation; Maine Audubon; Natural Resources Council of Maine; Trout Unlimited; and the Penobscot River Restoration Trust – a Maine non-profit corporation established in May 2005 to implement the restoration project.

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust was established for the purpose of implementing the core aspects of the restoration effort, particularly the purchase and removal of the Veazie and Great Works Dams, and bypass or, if necessary, removal of the Howland Dam. The Trust’s board of directors is comprised of members of the conservation groups and the Penobscot Indian Nation.

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