Dam Breaching 15 Years Ago Returns Life to Kennebec

Jul 1, 2014

Fifteen years ago today the 160-year-old Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in the heart of downtown Augusta was breached. 

Environmentalists say removing that dam, and the Fort Halifax Dam upriver in Winslow about eight years later, has not only improved the health of the river itself,  but has also contributed to a large increase in life, both in and near the river.   

Natural Resources Council of Maine Staff Scientist Nick Bennett says the river has started to breathe again. 

"The alewife populations have exploded in the river.  The shad population has exploded in the river," he says, "because all of these fish are now able to get up to historic spawning grounds that they really couldn't reach for 160 years,  and sturgeon can actually get now to all of their historic spawning grounds."

Bennett says  a consequence of blocking off all the habitat was the decimation of sea run fisheries, which eliminated an important food source for ground fish. 

And, he says, "Now that the alewives are back, eagles and osprey have become much more numerous.  In fact, [the Department of] Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has seen the largest aggregation of eagles on the East Coast between where the former Fort Halifax Dam was and the next dam upstream."

Bennett says in Maine there are lot of dams in place that don't generate power but do block fish.  He says they should come out and let the fisheries reconnect.