TU to Celebrate Dam Removal

When demolition starts on the Penobscot River's Great Works Dam on Monday, June 11, it will mark the beginning of a process that will open up 1,000 river miles to migrating Atlantic salmon, shad, stripers and numerous other fish largely absent from this river for many years. I will be there to celebrate with Secretary Salazar, TU volunteer leaders from Maine, and many others. For TU and our partners, this is proof that collaborative stewardship works. For TU members, this means that fishing will improve. And, in the not-too-distant future, when I return with my kids, we will get to enjoy a fishery that was lost for decades. It will be an incredible day.

One thousand miles. Think about that. To get a human perspective on what the Penobscot River Restoration Project will do for fish, think about driving from the center of Maine to Indianapolis, Indiana. That's about the amount of river miles the project will recover and restore. And the Penobscot partnership figured out how to recover the lost hydropower from the removed dams while also recovering fish. Communities get the power. Anglers get the fish, and with hard work and a little bit of luck, we recover the imperiled Atlantic salmon.

To be clear, without the leadership of TU staff and volunteers, fellow members of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, the Penobscot Indian Nation, power companies, the state of Maine, and our federal agency partners, this would not have happened. But success breeds success. Just last week, for example, we learned that the Wyss Foundation, a long time supporter for TU's western lands conservation work, will contribute $2 million to the removal of the dams and recovery of the fish.

Salmon and other sea-going fish are remarkably resilient. Where dams have been removed and restoration efforts taken seriously, as on the Kennebec River, the results speak for themselves. TU members who fought for the removal of the Edwards Dam over a decade ago are now enjoying restored fish runs, catching shad in Waterville, watching ospreys and eagles fight over a run of 3 million river herring, and counting salmon fry on a Kennebec tributary.

June 11 begins a new era on the Penobscot. We can now work at a scale large enough to recover these fish. It is not hyperbolic to say this is the last best chance for the recovery of wild Atlantic salmon in the United States.

So, a hearty thanks to the Maine council, and all TU members across the Northeast. One of the things I've always admired about TU volunteers is their willingness to give something back to the rivers, lands, and fish that mean so much to us. On June 11, that generosity will begin the process of restoration for a river too long bound.

Please stay in touch.

Chris Wood
[email protected]
Trout Unlimited President and CEO