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Conservation Groups Sue Brookfield Renewable Over Alleged Endangered Species Act Violations

Kennebec River Dam Skowhegan, Maine
Jimmy Emerson, DVM
Conservation groups say Brookfield Renewable is violating the Endangered Species Act by harming salmon at its dam operations without proper permits.

Conservation groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the owner of four dams along the Kennebec River, alleging that the company is violating the Endangered Species Act.

In their suit the groups say that Brookfield Renewable has been breaking the law by "taking" — or harming, injuring and killing salmon, since the end of 2019 — without proper authorization.

Nick Bennett, a staff scientist with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, says according to Brookfield's own data, more than 40 percent of juvenile salmon are being killed as they migrate downriver. He says the company needs to halt dam operations that continue to harm the species.

"It's time that somebody holds them accountable for all the endangered salmon that they've killed in the meantime," Bennett said.

The groups filing the suit include NRCM, the Conservation Law Foundation, Maine Rivers, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

John Burrows, the Atlantic Salmon Federation's executive director of U.S. operations, says in order to address the issue, the company would need to stop its operations for months at a time to protect salmon.

"We're looking at having a period of about eight months of the year where there needs to be changes in their operations, in order to avoid taking salmon under the ESA," Burrows said.

In a statement, the company said that it is "committed to responsible operations" and filed a Species Protection Plan in May. Brookfield says it will continue to work with agencies to limit impacts on migrating fish, including station shutdowns that it initiated in May.

"Brookfield Renewable will continue to pursue state of the art fish passage infrastructure and engage in fact-based dialogue with local stakeholders and affected communities regarding the potential negative economic, recreational, and social consequences that would result from dam removal," the company said.