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What are the goals of the Penobscot River Restoration Project?

The Penobscot River Restoration Project is hailed as one of the nation's most innovative restoration projects in history. An unprecedented collaborative effort between industry; federal, state, and tribal governments; and conservation groups, the project resolves longstanding disagreements over how best to restore native sea-run fish and their habitat while balancing the need for hydropower production. Goals of the project include:

  • Restore self-sustaining populations of native sea-run fish through improved access to nearly 1,000 miles of historic river habitat, and 100% of restored access to habitat for lower river species
  • Maintain, and likely increase hydropower resources;Renew opportunities for the Penobscot Indian Nation to exercise sustenance fishing rights;
  • Create new more diverse opportunities for tourism, recreation, business, and communities; and
  • Resolve longstanding disputes and provide future business and regulatory certainty over the regulation of the river.

How did the project begin?

When PPL Corporation purchased these dams in 1999 the company, along with the U.S. Department of Interior, the Penobscot Indian Nation, the State of Maine, and conservation groups, decided to explore the development of a comprehensive solution to a large number of issues involving hydropower relicensing, migratory fish passage and ecological restoration on the Penobscot River. This commitment to addressing all of these issues collectively in order to achieve the best possible outcomes formed the basis for the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which led to this vision of river restoration. In 2004, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Lower Penobscot River Settlement Accord, which provides the framework for the project.  Link to project Timeline.

What is the Penobscot River Restoration Trust?

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust is a not-for-profit organization established in May 2004 for the purpose of implementing the core aspects of the Penobscot River Restoration Project. As outlined in the Lower Penobscot River Settlement Agreement, this includes the purchase and removal of the Veazie and Great Works Dams and construction of a fish bypass around the Howland Dam. Members of the Trust are: American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Trout Unlimited, Penobscot Indian Nation and The Nature Conservancy. The Trust's board of directors is comprised of a representative from each member as well as three outside directors.

How is the Penobscot River Restoration Project meeting its goals?

  • PPL Corporation and now Black Bear Hydropower LLC, received the option to increase generation at six existing dams, which in total are expected to result in maintaining the current energy generation or even produce a slight increase;
  • The Penobscot River Restoration Trust received the option to purchase, and subsequently remove, the two lowermost dams on the Penobscot: Veazie (removed in 2013) and Great Works (removed in 2012);
  • The Penobscot River Restoration Trust received the option to purchase and pursue a state-of-the-art fish bypass in Howland, found feasible by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain the impoundment, and allow for safe, timely, and effective passage of the native sea-run species.
  • Black Bear Hydro LLC, with the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is improving fish passage at four additional dams in the Penobscot watershed;
  • The final agreement called for extensive community input and outreach in addressing community concerns before implementing the agreement. Since the agreement was signed, the Penobscot River Restoration Project undertook a major public outreach effort to educate the public about the proposed changes and seek input in addressing issues;
  • In addition, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust underwent a process of public hearings and comments in order to secure necessary state and federal permits. Hundreds of comments were received; they were overwhelmingly positive, and the state and federal agencies approved all necessary state and federal permits by November of 2010.

Together, these actions will yield substantial and wide-ranging benefits, including significantly improved access to critical spawning and juvenile rearing habitat for Atlantic salmon and 10 other species of migratory fish while allowing the opportunity to maintain and possibly increase power generation.

Who owns the dams?

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust purchased the Veazie, Great Works, and Howland dams from PPL Corporation in December 2010 for $24 million dollars, raised from a mix of public and private funds for the purpose of implementing the project. Black Bear Hydro LLC purchased the remaining six dams from PPL in 2009.

Who are the parties to the Lower Penobscot River Settlement Agreement?

The final agreement was signed by PPL Corporation; the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureaus of Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Park Service; four State of Maine natural resource agencies: the State Planning Office, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Atlantic Salmon Commission (now Department of Marine Resources); the Penobscot Indian Nation; American Rivers; Atlantic Salmon Federation; Maine Audubon; Natural Resources Council of Maine; Trout Unlimited; and the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. The Penobscot River Restoration Project passed an important milestone on June 25, 2004, when the parties mentioned above filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a final agreement including several documents that, taken together, proposed a roadmap for the restoration of the Penobscot River and its once abundant migratory fisheries. Other significant partners have joined the project since FERC approved the restoration plan, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Nature Conservancy.

For a more comprehensive project summary, please see our Project fact sheet.

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