(The Center Square) – A coalition of environmental groups in Maine is asking a federal judge to close several hydroelectric dams along the Kennebec River to restore habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon.
In a preliminary injunction motion filed in U.S. District Court, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Conservation Law Foundation, Maine Rivers and the Natural Resources Council of Maine seek to end four dam operations during the salmon spawning and migration seasons, which run from Oct. 15 to Dec. 31. and from April 1 to June 30.
The groups argue that Brookfield Renewable Partners’ dam operations are blocking the natural migration patterns of critically endangered fish, in violation of the Endangered Species Act. They argue that the dams violated federal law because they do not have active permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service to “catch” Atlantic salmon.
“This non-compliance is not a technical failure – Atlantic salmon is on the verge of extinction,” the groups’ lawyers wrote in the complaint. âThe Kennebec River plays an essential role in the survival and recovery of the species.
In September, environmental groups filed a lawsuit against Brookfield, alleging it violates endangered species law by killing Atlantic salmon trying to cross dams.
Brookfield has proposed a fish passage infrastructure that it says will provide a 96% passage rate for migrating salmon, but environmental groups have rejected those claims.
Environmental groups say Atlantic salmon – which is protected under the federal government’s Endangered Species Act – are threatened by dam operations that prevent fish from migrating safely from it. ocean to spawning and rearing areas in the upper Kennebec River watershed.
Governor Janet Mills’ administration has come under scrutiny for denying an environmental permit to operators of a Kennebec River dam that powers a local sawmill, saying the move will cost thousands of jobs . In its decision to deny the permit, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection raised concerns about the impact on Atlantic salmon along the river.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has the power to license hydroelectric dams, is reviewing a license application for the operators of the dam.
FERC’s license renewal approval is contingent on the issuance of a state water quality certification, which was recently denied by the DEP due to concerns about the impact on salmon from Atlantic.
Last month, Brookfield filed a lawsuit against Maine’s environmental regulators in state Superior Court, alleging that the Maine DEP was “overstepping its authority under state law in an effort to force Brookfield to remove its roadblocks â.
Republican lawmakers criticized the refusal to recertify the century-old hydroelectric dam, saying it would result in the closure of SAPPI Fine Papers’ flagship factory in Skowhegan, which employs 735 workers.
Mills hit back at these claims, writing in an “open letter to Sappi employees” published by local newspapers that the state had no plans to remove the dam or shut down the sawmill.