Penobscot River Dam Project Approved

Aerial view of the Veazie Dam, one of three Penobscot River dams that may be removed as part of the Penobscot River Restoration Project. Photo by Cheryl Daigle.

August, 6, 2010: A plan to remove 3 dams and restore fish habitat on Maine’s Penobscot River cleared one of its last hurdles in July when state environmental regulators issued their stamp of approval.

Sat Map of the Howland Dam
Atlantic salmon would be able to access upstream spawning habitat if the project's goals are realized. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

According to a report in the Bangor Daily News, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) okayed the Penobscot River Restoration Trust’s proposal to purchase and decommission the Howland Dam and build a fish bypass that would allow Atlantic salmon, shad, eels and other migratory fish access to upriver spawning and nursery areas. But that’s only part of a larger, $50 million proposal to remove or bypass 2 other dams along the river, which could ultimately allow anadromous species access to more than 1,000 miles of restored upstream habitat.

The Howland Dam is scheduled to be purchased, decommissioned and possibly removed. Photo Penobscot River Restoration Trust.
The map at right shows the "new" habitat that would be accessible to anadromous species after dam removal.

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust need only obtain Army Corps of Engineers permits, which are expected to be issued within the next few weeks, before it’s able to close on the $25 million purchase of the 3 dams. Once permits are obtained, the project may begin as early as next summer.

The project is not without controversy, however. While the vast majority of comments received by the DEP supported the project, some fishermen have voiced their opposition. They are concerned that bypass or removal of the dams may allow invasive northern pike to access upstream areas, where the species could threaten the state’s famous brook trout and landlocked salmon fisheries.

The DEP has acknowledged the potential for such problems, but has stated that native fish shouldn’t be threatened as long as barriers to northern pike are installed.

More Related Project Information:

Related Videos:


The Nature Conservancy

Butch Phillips, tribal elder of the Penobscot Indian Nation, describes his peoples historic connection with the river that shares their name and reflects on the promise of the Penobscot River Restoration Project. The Penobscot River Restoration Trust is a partnership that includes the Penobscot Indian Nation, The Nature Conservancy and several other conservation groups. The goal is to restore more than 1,000 miles of habitat for species like Atlantic salmon and river herring while maintaining hydropower in the watershed.


PenobscotTrust Video

Landowner and naturalist Sally Gilbert talking about the interconnectedness of the sea-run fish species that will benefit from the Penobscot River Restoration Project, as well as the importance of stewardship of this river and the fish, wildlife, and human communities that depend on it.