NOAA says Kennebec dams improvement plan will benefit Atlantic salmon. Conservation groups disagree
A coalition of local and national conservation groups is criticizing a new opinion from NOAA fisheries that finds endangered Atlantic salmon aren't jeopardized by four hydropower dams on the Kennebec River.
NOAA said the operator of the dams, Brookfield Renewable, has an acceptable plan to make improvements that will benefit salmon and other species. In a press release on Monday, NOAA said the plan to make significant structural and operational changes to the dams would allow salmon to swim up the Kennebec to freshwater habitat for the first time since the dams were constructed in the 1800s.
National conservation groups say federal regulators are ignoring the threat that the four dams pose to endangered Atlantic salmon and other species.
In a press release, John Burrows of the Atlantic Salmon Federation said his group strongly disagrees that any improvements can overcome the barriers to the fish.
"We absolutely cannot see how you can have four dams, 30 miles of impoundments, and still have Atlantic salmon in the Kennebec River," Burrows said.
Brookfield's plan must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Burrows said conservation groups will appeal an approval and could ultimately take the issue to federal court.