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Environment and Outdoors

Brookfield Renewable Retreats On Kennebec River Dam Relicensing

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Jimmy Emerson, DVM
Kennebec River Dam in Skowhegan, Maine.

This story will be updated.

The owners of a controversial dam on the Kennebec River are withdrawing their application for a new state water quality certificate, after state regulators indicated it was about to be denied.

Brookfield Renewable Partners is also seeking a new federal license for the Shawmut dam, in Benton. Conservationists want that dam and three others on the river removed to aid recovery of the endangered Atlantic salmon.

The state water quality certificate has become a flashpoint in the fight over the federal relicensing effort.

Maine's Department of Environmental Protection last week issued its draft decision to deny the water quality certificate. DEP found that to meet state goals for recovery, 99% of salmon passing through the facility should be able to survive. That's a higher standard than Brookfield proposed in its plans for fish passage, and some observers say it's a standard that could only be met by decommissioning the dam.

DEP's final decision was due next week, but late Wednesday Brookfield notified DEP and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it was withdrawing its application. In its letter to FERC, Brookfield says DEP’s draft decision failed to take into account recent findings by FERC that, according to Brookfield, show that state standards can be met at the dam.

DEP’s determinations regarding salmon survival were bade on work by the state Department of Marien Resources.

“DMR developed a population model which demonstrated that to meet federal recovery goals for Atlantic Salmon, at least 99% of salmon that approach each dam on the lower Kennebec, including the Shawmut Dam, must safely pass upstream, and 99% of salmon leaving for the ocean must pass safely downstream at each dam on the lower Kennebec,” said DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols in an email. “Since the federal recovery plan relies on the Kennebec watershed to meet recovery goals for the remaining Atlantic Salmon population in the US, not meeting these goals would prevent the species from being removed from the Endangered Species list. “