AUGUSTA — Maine Gov. Janet Mills dug in Tuesday on her administration’s proposal to improve fish passage on the Kennebec River, saying the dam manager on the river should be able to make the changes the state is seeking.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources is revising its river management policy and calling for dam owners to improve fish passages to allow more fish to reach spawning grounds in the Sandy River, the Bangor Daily News reported. Fish that utilize these passages include the endangered Atlantic salmon.

The department also supports removing at least two dams, and potentially two more.

According to dam manager Brookfield Renewable U.S., a subsidiary of a Toronto-based asset management company, the new fish passage standards would be “unachievable” and leave no alternative to removing dams.

Mills dismissed this notion Tuesday and said that Brookfield’s size should enable it to comply. Mills specifically mentioned that the company’s parent is partially owned by the nation of Qatar.

“If they want to come to the table, I’m always available to talk,” Mills said.

Republican Sens. Brad Farrin of Norridgewock and Scott Cyrway of Benton accused Marine Resources of downplaying the significance of the state’s proposed changes. They said it could have “an almost immediate and decidedly negative impact.”

In a letter to those senators last week, Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher referred to the proposed changes as “nothing more than a guidance document.” However, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the state plan would be a key factor in decisions on the dams’ license renewals.

The license for the Shawmut Dam in Fairfield is currently up for review.

Farrin accused the state of misrepresenting the impact and said it should extend its comment period past Friday and conduct economic impact assessments for dam removal.


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