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DAM-termined – the unprecedented partnership to save the Penoboscot River

After ten years in the making, The Penobscot River Restoration Trust has removed the Great Works Dam. It is the first dam in a series slated for removal along Maine’s largest river!


Top: The Great Works Dam original timber cribworks was built in the 1800’s. Photo (c) Penobscot River Restoration Trust


The Penobscot River Restoration Trust is working to restore access to critical habitat for sea-run fisheries of New England’s second largest watershed. Atlantic salmon and the 10 other species of migratory fish in the Penobscot are at less than 1% of their historic numbers, yet amazingly can all still be found hanging on below the first dam.

“It is amazing to see – and hear! – the Penobscot River flowing freely where the Great Works Dam stood just weeks ago! Our sights are now set on removing Veazie – the head-of-tide dam –  next year,” Laura Rose Day, Executive Director of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust.

By addressing the root of the problem – too many dams – this innovative and cost effective project will have a wide range of benefits for fish and wildlife populations, water quality and communities along the river while continuing to supply hydropower.

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust is an unprecedented public-private collaboration that has raised $60 million to date.  In order to complete restoration, an additional $3 million must be raised.  Funds will be directed to the removal of the Veazie Dam and the implementation of an innovative bypass channel around the Howland Dam over the next two years.  By targeting restoration efforts on the Penobscot, we are not just saving a river we are empowering a watershed.


Great Works Dam was breached on June 23rd, 2012- Another step forward in re-opening the Penobscot River from Old Town to the sea! Photo (c) Penobscot River Restoration Trust


Fully implemented, the project will remove the two dams closest to the ocean, Veazie and Great Works, and bypass the Howland Dam with a natural river channel.  At the same time, the power company is building state of the art fish passage what will be the only remaining dam on the main stem, improving passage at other dams, and increasing power production at several facilities so there will be no overall loss of hydropower produced in the watershed.

“When it is gone, half of the Penobscot’s sea-run species, including ancient and now endangered sturgeon, will have access to 100% of their historic habitat. A new fish lift and a bypass upstream will soon enable the leapers like the nation’s last remaining wild Atlantic salmon to reach inland water inaccessible to them for generations,” said Day.


Volunteers removed approximately one ton of broken glass, rusty metal, pottery shards, and other debris left in the river after nearly two centuries of industrial use and past practices of dumping waste directly into the river. Photo (c) Jim Mitchell


For the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), a founding partner in the project, this project offers real hope for preventing the extinction of Atlantic salmon in the US. It also complements ASF’s Tributary Project, which over the past decade has removed four dams and built four fishways on key spawning tributaries in the Penobscot.

Other partners in this project include, The Penobscot Indian Nation, state and federal agencies, hydropower companies, and seven conservation organizations (all approved 1%FTP NGO’s) including, American Rivers, The Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, The Nature Conservancy, Penobscot Nation, and Trout Unlimited.

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust is focused on opening up the sea-run fish-migration corridor on the Penobscot River to restore free-flowing waters, fish, wildlife and natural river functions that have been compromised by industry for nearly two centuries. Wildlife, fisheries, culture, recreation, tradition and opportunities to experience wildness all will benefit. 1% for the Planet members are joining together to support such a profound project and to date have donated nearly $40,000 to the effort.

Please consider supporting the Penobscot River Restoration Trust as they work collaboratively to restore and repair two centuries of ecosystem damages, utilizing appropriate technology for continued hydropower production.  For more information contact: Cheryl Gerrior, Finance Director, 207-430-0146.

Get project updates here: The Penobscot River Restoration Trust

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