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  • Toward a New Balance in the 21st Century

    A Citizens Guide to Dams, Hydropower,and River Restoration in Maine

    N A T U R A L R E S O U R C E S C O U N C I L O F M A I N E

  • 2002

    Maine Rivers

    Maines rivers and streams once flowed freely to the sea, carrying nutrients and allowingunimpeded fish passage deep inland. Today, more than 1000 dams exist on Maine waterways.

    The 2002 map depicts 649 dams listed in the National Inventory of Dams database, which includesdams with four feet or greater height. Hundreds of smaller dams are not shown on this map.

    Before 1600

    Maine Dams

  • Toward a New Balance in the 21st CenturyA Citizens Guide to Dams, Hydropower, and River Restoration in Maine

    This publication was principally funded by a grant from RiverNetworks Watershed Assistance Program. Additional generoussupport was provided by the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Founda-tion, the French Foundation, the Hillsdale Fund, the Henry P.Kendall Foundation, the Helen and George Ladd Charitable Cor-poration, Patagonia, Inc., The Pew Charitable Trusts, the SudburyFoundation, the Sweet Water Trust, the Rau Foundation, the WallisFoundation, and the members of the Natural Resources Councilof Maine.

    For information about how you can become a member of theNatural Resources Council of Maine, see the inside back cover.

    Editor and Writer: Pete Didisheim

    Project Director: Laura Rose Day

    Managing Editor: Judy Berk

    Project Assistants: Jessica Lavin & Tanya Swain

    Design: Jill Bock Design

    Thanks: The Council appreciates the many individuals who provided comments on this publication.

    Printer: J.S. McCarthy

    Photo and Illustration Credits (left to right):Cover Androscoggin River, Scott Perry; Inside Cover -Tom Gatto; p.1 - Jeff Morales; p.2 - Maine HistoricPreservation Commission, NRCM; p.3 - Paul Smith, Jeff McEvoy (2); p.4 - (illustration) Jon Luoma,Pejepscot Historical Society; p.5 - Doug Watts, Maine State Archives; p.6 & 7 - Jessica Lavin; p.8- Doug Watts; p. 9 - Doug Watts; p.10 - Jessica Lavin (map), Doug Watts; p.11 - D. D. Tyler(illustration), Maine DEP; Portland Press Herald; Dan Tarkinson, FlyFishingInMaine.com; p.12 -Kennebec Journal, Bill Silliker (2), Scott Perry; p.13 - Jessica Lavin, Doug Watts, Tim Watts; p.14 -Jessica Lavin, Doug Watts, Aardvaark Outfitters; p.15 - Jeff McEvoy (2), Doug Watts, Jim Thibodeau;p.16 - Dwayne Shaw, Jon Luoma (illustration), Coastal America; p.17 - Coastal America (2), TokiOshima (illustration), p.18 - Doug Watts, Bob Wengrzynek (2); p.19 - Bob Wengrzynek, MaineNatural Resources Conservation Service; p.20 - NRCM; p.21 - Calpine Corporation, Randy Spencer;p.22 www.heatherperryphoto.com, Pete Didisheim, Central Maine Newspapers; p. 23 - JournalTribune, Jim Thibodeau; p.24 - Gabrielle Kissinger (2), Paul Smith, Jessica Lavin; p.25 - Tina Shute(2); p.26 - Chris Gosselin, Doug Watts, Jeff McEvoy; p. 27 - Dean Bennett, NRCM (2), Doug Watts;p.28 - Jeff McEvoy (2).

    Paper: Totally chlorine-free

    Introduction .............................................................. 2

    The Dams of Maine ....................................................4

    The Damming of Maines Rivers ................................. 6

    Environmental Impacts of Dams ................................ 8

    Dam Removals .........................................................10

    Three Successful Dam Removals:

    The Kennebec River AugustaRediscovers a Natural Resource ......................... 12

    The East Machias River Free-flowingand Safer ...........................................................16

    Souadabscook Stream A River Reborn ............... 18

    Hydroelectric Power in Maine .................................20

    Fish Passage ............................................................. 22

    Dam Removal Controversies .................................... 23

    Celebrating Maines Rivers ....................................... 24

    Toward a New Balance for Maines Rivers ............... 26

    Resources ................................................................. 28

    A Citizens Guide to River Restoration 1

  • Maine is interlaced with beautiful and powerful rivers: the Saco,Androscoggin, Kennebec, Penobscot, Allagash, Aroostook, and St.John to name a few. These and countless other rivers and streamsshaped Maines landscape, nurtured our environment, and providedsustenance for people and wildlife throughout history.

    For thousands of years, Maines rivers have served the manyneeds of tribal people. They were used as trade routes for com-

    merce with neighboring nations, and as a central spiritualforce in their cultures. Most of Maines rivers have

    derived their modern names from the tribes thatoccupied these watersheds.

    When European settlers came to Maine, theirearliest towns were located along or at the mouthsof rivers, which eased transportation to and fromthe sea. Commercial fisheries flourished on theKennebec River for fifty years before any signifi-cant dams were built on the river. The settlers builtdams to capture the power of Maines rivers for

    Toward a New Balance in the 21st Century

    mills and factories. These early forms of business and industry textiles, saw mills, tanneries attracted immigrants whose descen-dants remain a vital cultural feature in our communities to this day.

    As highways, Maines rivers have carried entire forests of timberto processing plants. As ecosystems, they once supported a fisheriesindustry that sold salmon, sturgeon, and shad to markets around theworld. And, before modern pollution controls, Maines rivers alsoserved as open sewers for carrying untreated human and industrialwastes to the sea.

    As we move into the 21st century, the roles of Maines riversare changing. They continue to generate a significant amount ofelectricity, although a declining share compared to other sources ofpower. Maines rivers also have become an increasingly importantresource for recreation and a defining feature for our way of life.

    After suffering extreme pollution for nearly 100 years, the waterquality of Maines rivers has improved considerably allowing thereturn and recovery of significant fish populations. Maine residentsand visitors alike are spending more time fishing, kayaking,canoeing, rafting, camping, hiking, and picnicking along our rivers creating economic activity for local communities. Most signifi-cantly, Maine towns are reorienting themselves back toward therivers in their backyards.

    Dams have extensively altered the natural functioning ofMaines rivers and streams. Most of the dams in Maine are smallstructures, and most dams continue to serve important purposes,whether for electricity, for recreation in their ponds, or in relation tohomes that have been built around some of them. Most are likely toremain in place for years to come. However, some have outlivedtheir original design lives. Several dams in Maine have been

    A Citizens Guide to Dams, Hydropower and RiverRestoration in Maine

    Above: Dam on the LittleAndroscoggin, Norway, Maine,December 1864.

    Right: Maines rivers servedas highways for moving entireforests to processing plants.

    2 A Citizens Guide to River Restoration

  • removed in recent years, for economic, safety,and environmental reasons. Additional damremovals are under consideration. Most of theseprojects have received little public attention, yetsome have been highly controversial.

    The goal of dam removal projects in Maine is to secure a newbalance of economic, environmental, and quality of life factors abalance that is in line with the priorities and realities of our times.This guide provides interested citizens with an overview of some ofthe issues associated with Maines rivers and dams, so that you canbe an informed participant in discussions about how Maines riverscan best be shared by people, fisheries, and wildlife for generationsto come.

    After suffering extreme pollution for over 100 years, the waterquality of Maines rivers has improved considerably allowing

    the return and recovery of significant fish populations.

    Above: Maine people are rediscovering rivers in Mainethat once were so polluted they peeled paint fromwaterfront homes.

    Right: Fishing on inland waters in Maine provided anestimated $293 million in annual revenues in 1996.

    A Citizens Guide to River Restoration 3

  • The Dams of Maine

    Dams played a critical role in thesettling of the United States, in general,and of Maine, in particular. Damshave been built on every major andminor river system in the lower 48states and are found in every county inthe nation. An estimated 2.5 milliondams of various sizes span rivers and

    streams across America; approximately76,000 of these dams are greater than six feet tall. The exactnumber of dams in Maine is not known. More than 750 damsgreater than two feet high have been registered with the state,but the total number is estimated to exceed 1,000. Only 111dams in Maine produce electricity.

    As European settlers arrived in Maine, they built dams toenhance water supplies and provide mechanical power forsawmills and gristmills. Large dams were built on theKennebec at Augusta and Waterville, on the Androscoggin atBrunswick and Lewiston, and on the Penobscot at Bangor andOld Town. The number of dams proliferated not just on themajor rivers, but on smaller rivers andstreams as well. Dams were builtalmost everywhere in the state wheresignificant falling water could be usedto operate a mill.

    Dams are now a major fixture ofMaines landscape, even though manydams in Maine no longer serve theiroriginal purpose and are no longer

    used by their original owners. Water stor