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Conservation Groups Say Dam Owner's Routine Operations Are Harming Endangered Atlantic Salmon

Jonathan Carr/Atlantic Salmon Federation
via Bangor Daily News

Two conservation groups working to protect endangered Atlantic salmon on the Kennebec River say that fish were left stranded at the Lockwood Dam in Waterville last week.

Trout Unlimited and the Atlantic Salmon Federation say routine operations by Brookfield Renewable Partners trapped and injured several of the Atlantic salmon able to migrate through the watershed. John Burrows of the Atlantic Salmon Federation says the number may be small but it is still significant.

"We may be talking a quarter to a third of the run that's injured or stranded or will not survive. So when you're talking about numbers that are that critically low, every single fish matters," Burrows says.

The strandings occurred when Brookfield installed flashboards on the dam as it does every year. The action cuts off water flow to the dam's channel, stranding salmon and other fish which then have to be rescued by the Maine Department of Marine Resources and other volunteers.

Burrows says Brookfield does not have the legal authority to harm, injure or kill Atlantic salmon on any of its four dams on the Kennebec, which is why his group plans to file suit for violations of the Endangered Species Act.

In a written statement, Brookfield Renewable spokesperson Miranda Kessel said the company is disappointed in the recent claims made by the groups in their "continual pursuit of dam removal within the lower Kennebec communities." Kessel said that repairs undertaken on June 15th included a two-foot drawdown of the impoundment that started at 9 am and concluded by the afternoon. She said the improvements are expected to improve water flow for the movement of fish in the rive and the plan was developed in consultation with resource agencies who were onsite to conduct stranding surveys during the drawdown.

Updated: June 22, 2021 at 9:09 PM EDT
When this story was originally published, Brookfield Renewable had not yet responded to a request for comment.
Corrected: June 22, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Trout Unlimited intended to file a lawsuit against Brookfield Renewable Partners. Trout Unlimited did not indicate it would file a lawsuit.