|Edwards Dam was dismantled in July 1999, marking the first time in 162 years that 10 species of migratory fish in the Kennebec could reach 17 miles of spawning habitat.|
TU volunteers in Maine were key players in a 15-year process that resulted in the removal of Edwards Dam from the Kennebec River. Edwards Dam, a 24-foot high, 917-foot long hydropower facility, prevented migratory fish from reaching their historic upstream spawning grounds, contributing to the demise of a valuable fishery. After the Clean Water Act removed log drives from Maine's rivers, anglers were able to once again get out on the Kennebec. By the early 1980s, TU leaders, including Maine Council President Peter Thompson and the Kennebec Valley Chapter President John McLeod, were advocating for the removal of Edwards Dam. They were integral in forming an advocacy group called KRAC (Kennebec River Angler's Coalition), with the goal of restoring the fishery by "KRAC-ing" a hole in Edwards Dam.
|Maine Governor Angus King, U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and other dignitaries ring the bell to signal a demolition crew to breach the Edwards dam.|
In the mid 1980s, the TU Maine Council convinced the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to engage in public policy forums, which resulted in two publications - a catalog of the Kennebec River's fishery and a summary of issues to be resolved in order to remove Edwards Dam. This prompted other groups to become involved in efforts to remove the dam. With the 30-year license to operate Edwards Dam due to expire in 1993 and the owner seeking a new license from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), four environmental groups collaborated to form the Kennebec Coalition in 1989, with the Kennebec Valley Chapter as a key player. The Kennebec Coalition was formed to intervene in the relicensing process and to advocate fisheries restoration in the river through removal of Edwards Dam.
|Edwards was dismantled under a policy that weighs power needs against environmental protection.|
The Kennebec Valley Chapter committed $2,000 a year to the Coalition "until the dam is removed". This was a significant sum for the Chapter to raise, but it reflects their commitment and dedication to the process. "Trout Unlimited led grassroots advocacy through the process," said Steve Brooke, a TU volunteer ultimately hired by the Coalition to work on the project. Kennebec Valley TU members participated at all public hearings throughout the process. Brooke recalls that chapter members were pivotal at one hearing when they stayed late into the evening, well after paid consultants hired by the dam's owner had left, and convinced FERC officials to rethink portions of the Draft EIS. Soon after, the Kennebec Coalition filed a 7,000-page response correcting the record and building the case that ultimately resulted in FERC's order to remove the dam. Edwards Dam was removed during the summer and fall of 1999.
|Anglers enjoy a day on the Kennebec.|
TU's support of Edwards Dam removal was consistent from the chapter, council and national level. TU National lent financial support to the Kennebec Coalition and stood behind the Kennebec Valley Chapter's efforts. Brooke emphasizes that the accomplishment was a collaborative effort, "The groups working together made it happen - no group could have done it alone."
As a result of their efforts, fish are returning to the Kennebec. American shad, alewives, Atlantic salmon, shortnosed sturgeon, rainbow smelt, striped bass, and others have benefited from the dam removal. The Kennebec Valley Chapter continues work on the river by cooperating with groups downstream to do water quality sampling. The hard work of Maine's TU volunteers has resulted in enormous positive changes for the Kennebec River and its fishery. A river that was abandoned to industrial abuse twenty-five years ago is now a vibrant natural resource, an asset to all the communities along the lower river and the entire state of Maine.