Removal of Veazie Dam begins on Maine’s Penobscot River

Veazie Dam on the Penobscot River, ME | © Penobscot River Restoration Trust

Veazie Dam on the Penobscot River, ME | © Penobscot River Restoration Trust

Today is a big day for dam removal and river restoration. Removal of Veazie Dam begins on Maine’s Penobscot River – part of a major effort to restore river health, revive cultural traditions, and revitalize local economies.

Because of the threats from existing or proposed dams, American Rivers named the Penobscot one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers every year from 1989 to 1996. After years of advocacy by American Rivers, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and others, the river restoration project kicked off last summer with the removal of Great Works Dam. That dam removal, the demolition of Veazie Dam (20-feet high and 1,072-feet long), along with the installation of fish passage at other dams will open access to 1,000 miles of habitat for Atlantic salmon and other native sea-run fish. No other dam removal project has opened access to that much habitat.

Designated one of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers in 2012 and a model of Cooperative Conservation in 2008, the Penobscot River Restoration Project has earned international recognition for its innovative collaboration between the Penobscot Indian Nation, state and federal governments, conservation groups and hydropower interests, and for its large-scale approach to balancing hydropower production with restoring self-sustaining runs of native sea-run fish.

Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, commented on this historic restoration effort: “As the waters flow free and the fish return, the Penobscot is a symbol of partnership, resilience, and hope. We are grateful to all of our partners who worked so hard to make the dream of a healthy Penobscot River a reality. The Penobscot’s renaissance will benefit Maine and the nation for generations to come.”

Fast facts about the Penobscot River restoration effort:

  • When the Penobscot River Restoration Project is complete, eleven species of native sea-run fish, including Atlantic salmon, American shad, river herring and striped bass will have greatly improved access to nearly 1,000 miles of habitat. As the fisheries rebound, other wildlife that feed on migrating fish will thrive.
  • Thanks to local investments in hydropower production, we will be able to maintain and possibly increase the amount of energy generated on the river.
  • A healthy Penobscot River will reinvigorate outdoor recreation opportunities such as fishing, fly-tying, fly rod-making, canoe building, bird-watching, and paddling.

Dam removal at a glance:

  • Roughly 1,100 dams have been removed nationwide over the past 100 years.
  • 96 dams have been removed in New England since 1999.
  • 26 dams have been removed in Maine — 20 of them since 1999 (the Edwards Dam was removed on the Kennebec River).

Background on Dam removal: