AUGUSTA – It’s been 20 years since the Kennebec River underwent a change that officials say sparked a national river restoration movement.
Dozens gathered together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the removal of Edwards Dam from the Kennebec River.
Pete Didisheim, the Advocacy Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the dam was stopping the upstream passage of ten species of sea-run fish that lived in the ocean but needed to come to fresh water to spawn.
“They were coming to the base of the dam and they couldn’t get any further and that was a big problem. If we were ever going to restore the fisheries of this river, we needed to remove the dam,” Didisheim said.
He said the dam deteriorated the water quality upstream and that’s one reason why the Kennebec Coalition fought for the dam’s removal in 1999.
“In the last 20 years, the recovery of fish populations and bald eagles and ospreys to this river has been fantastic, so that’s what we’re celebrating. Nature returned in a big way, and we were here to express our appreciation to everybody who made it happen,” Didisheim said.
Amy Singler, the director of river restoration at American Rivers, said the river has revived with the dam’s removal.
“When we get out of the way, when we remove these obstructions, they have the ability to heal themselves. We see time and time and time again, we see fish come back and the wildlife comeback with the fish. Whether they’re the migratory fish coming up from the ocean or they’re our beloved resident fish that hang around in our waters throughout the year,” Singler said.
The removal of the dam 20 years ago has led to a renaissance for the environment and for the city itself.