Dam removal to begin on Maine’s Penobscot River – watch it live!

One of the nation’s most significant river restoration projects will kick off on Maine’s Penobscot River on Monday. The President of American Rivers, Bob Irvin, will be at the event on the river with our partners, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and others to celebrate the revival of the Penobscot, its fish and wildlife, and communities.

  • Photos from the event
  • You can watch a recording of the live stream of the June 11 event (view in Internet Explorer):

What is happening on the Penobscot?

American Rivers and our partners in the Penobscot River Restoration Trust are working to undo two centuries of damage that too many dams have inflicted on the river. The lower two dams on the river are being removed, and fish passage will be added at additional dams.

At the June 11 event, we’ll witness the kick off of the project, as removal begins on Great Works Dam. A new chapter for the Penobscot will begin!

Why should people care about this restoration project?
By removing dams and installing fish passage at others, we will restore access to 1,000 miles of historic habitat for 11 species of fish including Atlantic salmon and sturgeon. Reconnecting the river to the sea will restore the health of the river and its fisheries. It will revitalize a key part of the Penobscot Indian Nation’s culture and create new recreation and economic opportunities for all of the river’s communities.

This project is a great example of public-private collaboration. American Rivers and our partners have worked for more than a decade to restore the Penobscot. American Rivers named the Penobscot one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers every year from 1989 to 1996 because of the threats from existing or proposed dams. We look forward to the day when we can declare the Penobscot River “most improved.”

Why is the Penobscot River special?
The Penobscot is New England’s second largest river. Its watershed includes Maine’s highest peak, Mount Katahdin. The river has been home to the Penobscot Indian Nation since time immemorial and is essential to the tribe’s culture. The river also provides clean water, recreation opportunities, and fish and wildlife habitat. It generates hydropower and provides many other economic benefits.

The river is known for its large historic run of Atlantic salmon. While significantly smaller today, the run is still the largest Atlantic salmon run remaining in the U.S. The river is also known for its tradition of sending the first salmon caught each year to the U.S. President. In 1992 President George Bush was the last president to participate in this tradition, which was suspended due to declining wild Atlantic salmon populations.

What about hydropower production and economic benefits?
A key aspect of the Penobscot River restoration project includes continued hydropower generation. Considerable investments in local hydropower generation will at least maintain and possibly increase the amount of energy that was generated when the project began — further proof that we can strike a balance energy production and healthy rivers.

The project will create or maintain 188 construction, engineering, scientific, and project management jobs. Opportunities for in-river commercial fishing are also expected to increase.
Read more about the wide-ranging benefits of restoring the Penobscot.

How many dams have been removed?
It has been a big couple of years for dam removal and river restoration in the U.S. In 2011, “the Year of the River,” we witnessed the world’s biggest dam removal project begin on Washington’s Elwha River, followed by the dramatic blast at Condit Dam on the White Salmon in October. Here’s a quick snapshot of dam removal in the U.S.:

  • 1,111 dams have been removed around the country over the last 100 years according to our database.
  • A total of 132 dams have been removed in the six New England states.
  • Pennsylvania has removed 221 dams, more dams than any other state in the nation.
  • 24 dams have been removed in Maine.

Learn more