Monday, December 9, 2013
By Tom Bell firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIAN ISLAND — Work crews today began demolition of the Great Works Dam on the Penobscot River, the largest-ever river restoration project in eastern North America.
Machinery begins work today on the demolition of the cement fish ladder on the Great Works Dam.
Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer
WATCH THE DAM REMOVAL
Flikr: photos will be posted throughout the day at http://www.flickr.com/photos/greatworksdamremoval/
Vimeo: Video will be posted throughout the day at https://vimeo.com/greatworksdamremoval
For more information about the Penobscot River dam removal project or donate to the effort at www.penobscotriver.org.
Excavators began pounding the defunct concrete fishway in the middle of the dam following more than an hour of speeches by federal, state and Penobscot Indian Nation officials.
Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said the $62 million project, which includes the removal of two dams and improved fish passages at two other dams, is a model for other restoration efforts in the nation because of its collaborative approach.
"It's really a great day for America and a great example for anyone who believes anything is possible," Salazar said.
Hundreds of people were on hand to hear the speeches and celebrate the project's start at the dam, the second of three located downstream from Indian Island, the Penobscot Indian reservation.
The project is seen as a model for river restoration in other parts of the world because the terms of a multi-party agreement will allow power companies to increase power generation elsewhere in the river watershed. In the end, there will be no loss of power production.
Environmental groups say the project is the largest-ever river restoration effort in eastern North America and represents the last best hope of restoring wild runs of Atlantic salmon in the United States.
“It’s easy for people in Maine to forget what a big deal this is,” said Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers.
Salazar was among the dignitaries speaking at a press conference at the dam this morning. Salazar also was to attend a community luncheon on Indian Island sponsored by the Penobscot Indian Nation, which played a critical role in the project.
Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, was the top Maine official at the event. Gov. Paul LePage, a critic of the project, was invited but did not attend.
Constructed in the late 1800s, the Great Works Dam is a 1,020-foot-long mass of concrete, timber and cribwork situated on a bend in the river between Old Town and Bradley. The river drops 17 feet over a third of a mile and without the dam, there would be rapids.
The dam will be removed slowly over the next six months, although most of the dam will be gone by the end of summer.
The Veazie Dam -- scheduled for demolition in 2013 and 2014 -- is eight miles downstream from Great Works and is the last physical barrier to juvenile salmon reaching Penobscot Bay and the sea. Scientists monitor returning salmon at fishways and traps at the Veazie Dam. Most are taken to hatcheries or trucked upriver.
In addition, two dams will get significantly improved fish passages: an elevator to lift fish over the Milford Dam, located just downstream from Indian island, and a fish bypass at the Howland Dam.
Because public access to the Great Works Dam is limited, organizers today encouraged people to watch the press conference live-streamed on a 16-foot-wide screen in Sockalexis Hall, the bingo hall on Indian Island.
The original dam at this site was built in the 1830s as a "wing dam," parallel to the shore, to provide water for sawmills. It was partially demolished around 1887, when the current Great Works Dam was installed by the Penobscot Chemical Fibre Co., the first pulp mill on the river.
(Continued on page 2)