Reviving the Penobscot and its fish

Photo courtesy of Bridget Besaw/Penobscot River Restoration Trust

Photo courtesy of Bridget Besaw/Penobscot River Restoration Trust

Removing the Veazie Dam on Maine’s Penobscot River brings the potential for Atlantic salmon much closer to reality. Removal begins today. Breaching the dam is the second dam removal in what is the largest river restoration project in the nation’s history. When completed, more than 1,000 miles of habitat will be opened up to Atlantic salmon and 11 species of native sea-run fish.

After more than a decade of collaboration among the hydropower company that owned the river’s dams, state and federal officials, conservation groups and the Penobscot Indian Nation, the Veazie dam is the second dam to be removed in the project. Last year, the Great Works dam was removed. A bypass will be built around a third dam, which will mark the project’s completion.

”This river is simply who we are,” said Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis in Indian Country Today. “It’s the very core of our identity as a people and it’s simply the most important in the Penobscot Nation’s life. Today is truly historic. The Veazie Dam has been the biggest obstruction. This is also historically a very significant place for the Penobscots. We had an encampment and villages here and there’s a huge archeological site here, so we’re just beside ourselves that we’ve reached this kind of care and we’re bringing this river back to its health and vitality and its natural state. We’re excited for the day when we can have salmon again in our ceremonies and get people eating them and focusing on the traditional practice that sustained us for so many years.”

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