FERC Stands by Edwards Dam Removal Decision
Kennebec River Healthy One Year Later
5/31/2000 — — News from The Kennebec Coalition:
American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Trout unlimited
Margaret Bowman, American Rivers: (202) 347-7550
Andy Goode, Atlantic Salmon Federation: (207) 725-2833
Laura Rose Day, Natural Resources Council of Maine: (207) 622-3101
Maggie Lockwood, Trout Unlimited: (703) 284-9425
May 31, 2000. Falmouth, ME…The Kennebec Coalition applauds the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for affirming its decision to retain its dam removal order in the Edwards Dam proceeding. At a public meeting today, the Commissioners voted 3-1 to deny requests by hydropower trade associations for rehearing of the Commission’s September 1998 decision to accept the settlement agreement that led to the removal of Edwards Dam. The vote also served to deny the hydropower industry’s request to vacate the Commission’s November 1997 order to remove the dam.
“The Commissioners have rightly confirmed that, in certain circumstances, dam removal can be in the public interest,” said Steve Brooke of American Rivers. “This is a huge victory for everyone who cares about keeping America’s rivers flowing free where dams no longer make sense.”
The removal of the Edwards Dam has demonstrated that, used judiciously, FERC’s ability to order dam removal can improve rivers, restore fisheries and revitalize local communities.
“Anyone who is wondering whether FERC’s decision to order Edwards Dam removed was a good idea should immediately get on a plane and come to Maine to see the incredible rebirth of the Kennebec River.” said Betsy Ham, Coordinator of the Kennebec Coalition.
“We knew that this river community would benefit from the dam’s removal” observes Laura Rose Day, Watershed Project Leader for NRCM, “but the early signs of recovery are remarkable! From the osprey and anglers enjoying the rebounding fish migrations, to the towns and businesses planning river festivals, communities along the Kennebec are reaping the benefits of their new river!”
“FERC has confirmed what the Kennebec Valley TU members knew 15 years ago. The environmental benefits of the Edward’s dam removal outweigh any economic or power benefits of the dam,” said TU New England Conservation Director Jeff Reardon. “The proof is in the return of the American shad, striped bass and alewife.”
“The single best act we can do for dwindling Atlantic salmon populations is to allow them access to their historical habitat, the removal of the Edwards Dam is a giant step in the right direction,” said Andy Goode of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
To mark to approaching anniversary of the Edwards Dam removal, the groups involved are organizing a press briefing on the Kennebec River the last week in June. Since the completion of the removal last July 1, the Kennebec River has seen a number of strong improvements.
Migratory fish are swimming up the river past the historic Edwards Dam site in great numbers for the first time in 162 years.
- Fisheries biologists estimate that more than two million alewives have already moved upstream above the former dam site, returning in such large numbers that for the first time state officials exceeded their quota for trapping alewives in the basin. The captured alewives are released into several Maine watersheds.
- Striped bass that moved up the Kennebec above the former dam site last fall have also begun their spring migration.
- Both striped bass and American shad have been caught in the past few weeks in Waterville, 17 miles above the former dam site.
Water quality has significantly improved in former impoundment.
- Before the dam was removed, water in the Edwards impoundment failed to meet Maine’s minimum water quality standard (Class C). Within two months of removal, water quality in the former reservoir improved dramatically to meet Maine’s Class B water quality standard.
- A study by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection showed that aquatic life in the river has blossomed. Based on samples of macrobenthic invertebrates taken both before and after removal, total numbers of macrobenthic invertebrates increased from approximately 40 to 2000. The biodiversity of the samples approximately doubled.
Recreational activity on the River has increased dramatically.
- Boaters and anglers have retuned to the area in large numbers. Last summer the newly restored river was used extensively by the public to fish, canoe, birdwatch, and generally enjoy the river.
- Many residents had feared that muddy banks, exposed by lower water levels after the dam removal, would be unsightly and deter recreational use. This fear did not materialize – natural vegetation grew back on the banks quite rapidly and not only made the canoe down the river quite, but also provided habitat for birds, small mammals and other wildlife. Jim Thibodeau, a registered Maine Guide from Waterville, said, “I am looking forward to a great summer season fishing this section of the Kennebec.”
Chronology of legal events leading to Edwards Dam removal:
- 1991 — Edwards applies to FERC for a new 50 year license.
- 1993 — License to operate Edwards Dam expires. Dam continues to operate on annual permits pending action on license application.
- November 1997 — FERC orders removal of Edwards Dam at owner’s expense. Edwards and hydropower industry trade associations request rehearing before the Commissioners.
- May 1998 — Comprehensive settlement Accord signed among active parties in licensing. Settlement provides for transfer of Edwards Dam to State of Maine for removal.
- Jutu 1998 – Hydropower industry trade associations request that FERC vacate 11/97 order.
- September 1998 — Commission approves comprehensive settlement, denies request to vacate 11/97 order, and dismisses request for rehearing of the 11/97 order.
- October 1998 – Hydropower industry trade associations request rehearing of 9/98 orders.
- January 1999 – Ownership of Edwards Dam transferred to State of Maine.
- July-October, 1999 – Edwards Dam removed.
- May, 2000 – Commission denies industry’s requests for rehearing of 9/98 orders
Events celebrating the one-year anniversary of the removal of Edwards Dam are scheduled of June 28th on the banks of the Kennebec River. For more information as this date approaches, contact Judy Berk or click here