In his article, “Save the Atlantic Salmon and the Shawmut Dam” (June 27), State Senator Mark R. Lawrence appears to rely on the good faith and talking points of the dam owner, Brookfield Renewable Power of Toronto, Ontario. Senator Lawrence of York County may not be as familiar with the resources of the Kennebec River in central Maine as those of us who live and work along its banks and have witnessed the positive changes in the river below Lockwood Dam in Waterville since the 1999 removal of Edwards Dam in Augusta.
Likewise, he may not know that with the 2008 removal of the Fort Halifax dam in Winslow, the town of Benton acquired the rights to the East Coast’s largest gaspereau run. This cash crop pays for the salary and benefits of two staff members at her elementary school. The commercial harvest is also exported to Canada where it is processed and shipped to Haiti where the protein is desperately needed.
I want to respond to Senator Lawrence with the following points:
1) The debate is not only about the Shawmut dam; this is the cumulative impact of four brookfield dams that adult salmon must find their way to their spawning habitat in the upper Sandy River and then return to sea, where they can replenish their strength weakened to return to spawn again the following year, as they grow in size and carry more eggs to build up the Kennebec Atlantic salmon population.
2) The problem is with baby Atlantic salmon growing to adolescence in the Sandy River for two years before following their parents downstream, past turbines and the 30ft high spillway falls on aprons of concrete and rock at four dams.
3) It is not about the loss of about three fish per year if a 95% efficient fish ladder is used in Shawmut, compared to an impractical to build fish ladder that is 99% efficient. This is the cumulative loss of 5% of spawning adult Atlantic salmon at each of the four dams.
With 95% efficiency, out of 100 fish that attempt to cross Lockwood Dam in Waterville, only 95 fish make it to Hydro-Kennebec, 90 make it to Shawmut, 86 make it to Weston Dam in Skowhegan, and maybe 81 make it to head towards the Sandy River. . That’s a loss of 19% in adult fish passage upstream, before adding the losses caused by 25 miles of hot impoundments and additional downstream passage losses on adult salmon and emigrating juvenile salmon.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which licenses and sets operating conditions for Kennebec’s four lower dams, has pledged to assess the combined environmental impact of the four dams on the river as a system in its decisions. authorization for each of these dams. This final FERC Environmental Impact Statement will not be released until 2023.
4) To suggest that anyone concerned with restoring the Atlantic salmon population would sacrifice 700 union jobs to save about three fish in Shawmut is ridiculous. No one would advocate such a compromise. Governor Janet Mills has pledged that this will not happen, and dam removal advocates have pledged to seek ways to keep the mill in operation at no additional cost to Sappi Corp.
5) The four dams combined generate only 47 megawatts of non-fossil energy. Over the past 18 months, I have received solicitations from at least seven community solar farm developers who, when their projects are fully operational and connected to the Maine power grid, will more than replace the electricity generated by these four dams on the lower Kennebec River. These community solar farms will generate electricity without impacting fish and wildlife or the scenic views of North Woods.
Senator Lawrence would do well to check his sources and learn more about our Kennebec River before issuing an uninformed opinion.
Dave Hedrick is retired and lives in Waterville, where he enjoys fishing the Kennebec River and is director of the Kennebec chapter of Trout Unlimited.