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Environment and Outdoors

Federal energy regulators to fully assess four Kennebec River dams for effects on endangered Atlantic salmon

Kennebec River Dam Skowhegan, Maine
Jimmy Emerson, DVM
/
Flickr
Brookfield spokeswoman Miranda Kessel says the fourth dam, called Weston, will continue to operate, because studies show the Salmon stand a better chance of survival passing through the turbines than when they spill over the top of that dam.

Federal energy regulators say they will put together a full environmental impact statement for four Kennebec River dams to examine their effects on highly endangered Atlantic salmon. They had proposed only a less-comprehensive assessment that would have looked at the dams one by one.

But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was also being pushed by federal fisheries managers and local conservation groups calling for the full analysis.

"We think it's this kind of analysis you need that takes a look at the system and says if we're going to make this work, here's what we've got to do at this entre suite of dams," says Jeffrey Reardon, a scientist at Trout Unlimited. He says it's a rare reversal by FERC. And he says the last time the agency took a big-picture look at Kennebec River dams, 25 years ago, it led to the removal of the Edwards and Fort Halifax dams.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Canada-based dam owner, Brookfield Renewables, said the move will delay implementation of fish passage improvements, and create uncertainty for local communities with economies tied to the dams.