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3 Conservation Groups To Sue Kennebec River Dams' Owner, Alleging Endangered Species Act Violations

The Shawmut dam in Fairfield.

Three conservation groups plan to sue the owner of four Kennebec River dams over what they say are repeated violations of the Endangered Species Act.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Rivers and the Conservation Law Foundation filed a notice of intent to sue Brookfield Renewable yesterday. It's the latest in a series of conflicts over the dams, which have faced scrutiny from environmental groups and regulators.

NRCM Senior Staff Scientist Nick Bennett says that Brookfield has continued to "take" Atlantic salmon at its facility after its federal license expired in 2019, and federal officials have said in recent months that the company has lost its coverage under the Endangered Species Act.

"The federal governments' strong acknowledgement of this, and Brookfield's continued failure to act, was our motivation," Bennett says.

NRCM and other groups have advocated for the removal of all four dams, which they say could help restore salmon populations that have fallen precipitously since the 1800s.

"So at this point, fish can make their way up to Waterville, and then they actually have to make their way up into the most valuable habitat by truck. That's just not natural, it's not normal, and it should not be the long-term plan. The river deserves better," says Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers.

Brookfield Renewable didn't offer immediate comment on the notice, but told Maine Public last week that it has temporarily shut down three of its dams through the end of May to protect fish populations.