VEAZIE – “This was the largest river restoration project in this country,” said Andrew Goode, of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
One year ago, the Howland Dam bypass officially opened, marking the completion of the 16 year long, $65 million Penobscot River Restoration Project.
“It’s pretty exciting for me to have this one year anniversary and to see the success it’s having on our fisheries, as well as the wildlife,” said Joshua Royte, of The National Conservancy.
“There’s no net loss of energy on this river, but there’s three fewer dams,” Goode said.
The project removed two dams and bypassed another, connecting 2,000 miles of river to the sea, and giving fish access to waters that dams had blocked off.
“Over time, this will be the biggest run of River Herring on the east coast,” Goode said. “It will be the biggest run of Atlantic Salmon. We’re seeing sturgeon come up and recolonize habitats, they haven’t been able to in over two hundred years. Even though it’s early since the project was completed, we’re seeing the river rebound pretty quickly.”
The project is inspiring similar efforts worldwide.
“There are people interested in doing what they call ‘a Penobscot.’ For instance, rivers in India and China and South America and Africa, so these are countries that don’t have a lot of hydro power right now, and the fact that they can look to the Penobscot and say we might be able to do develop hydro power, yet still maintain an incredible fishery,” said Royte.
The project not only impacts the fish and wildlife, but the surrounding communities as well.
“I think people are reconnecting to the rivers, I think connecting to the rivers brings a lot of hope for people, I think it brings a lot of relaxation and de-stressing,” said Royte.
All of this is the doing of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, a combination of dam owners, conservation groups, tribal and federal agencies.