The Shawmut Dam on the Kennebec River, shown from a riverbank in Fairfield in 2022, is among four dams on the river now up for federal relicensing. Public hearings on the matter are scheduled for this week in Waterville and Augusta. Morning Sentinel file

Members of the public will have opportunity this week to ask questions and comment on the relicensing of four dams on the Kennebec River, between Waterville and Skowhegan, at public hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The hearings, part of the federal regulatory process, are to be held in Waterville and Augusta.

The Waterville hearing is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Summit Room at Thomas College at 180 West River Road.

The Augusta hearing is set for 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday in the Fort Western, Arnold and Howard rooms at the Augusta Civic Center at 76 Community Drive.

The public can also comment online until June 4 at

The four dams are the Lockwood Dam and Hydro Kennebec Dam in Waterville, Shawmut Dam in Fairfield and Weston Dam in Skowhegan. They are owned by Brookfield Renewable Partners.


The Lockwood Dam in Waterville in 2022. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is responsible for dam relicensing, released an environmental impact statement in late March that recommended relicensing and amending the licenses to ensure upstream and downstream access for Atlantic salmon, alewife, blueback herring, American shad, American eel and sea lamprey, according to a FERC filing.

Brookfield Renewable Partners filed plans with FERC to protect Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon, which are considered threatened or endangered species.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine, an environmental group, is critical of the plan, saying it contains inadequate measures to protect wildlife.

“The Kennebec was once the most productive river in Maine for sea-run fish, with Atlantic salmon runs in the hundreds of thousands, but now Atlantic salmon are critically endangered,” according to the NRCM website. “We need to act now to restore a healthy Kennebec.

“Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fish species face a gauntlet of four dams between Waterville and Skowhegan that makes it impossible to reach the Sandy River, a tributary of the Kennebec that provides some of the best spawning and rearing habitat in the Northeast. The harm these dams cause far outweighs the benefits from their small energy output.”

Salmon Passage

The Weston Dam holds back the Kennebec River in Skowhegan last year. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press file

The Natural Resources Council of Maine said FERC is proposing for the four Shawmut dams the same fish passage measures — single upstream fish lifts and inadequate measures to keep fish out of turbines — that have failed on many rivers with multiple dams. Atlantic salmon, for example, have disappeared from the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers, where FERC tried a similar approach.

Other organizations, such as the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce in Waterville, argue that dam removal could have a catastrophic impact on the economy in central Maine.

“These four dams – located from Waterville to Skowhegan – are responsible, directly or indirectly, for 3,200 jobs and $276.6 million in employee earnings in Kennebec and Somerset counties,” Kimberly N. Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an op-ed last year.

“They support some of the biggest industry in the region, including the Sappi Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, one of the largest mills in Maine, which would shut down if the Shawmut hydroelectric dam were ever decommissioned and demolished.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story