Peter Taylor’s book about the restoration of the Penobscot River is really good and important. “From The Mountain To The Sea,” published by Islandport Press, tells the amazing story of the very long and expensive effort to remove dams and build fishways on the Penobscot River.

While a lot has been accomplished — including the removal of dams — fish are still blocked in many places.

Atlantic salmon are on the brink of dying out in the Kennebec River. The Department of Marine Resources’ has created a new Kennebec River Management Plan, but I am skeptical it will really make a difference.

The biggest problems for Atlantic salmon are four dams between Waterville and Skowhegan. These dams, owned by Canada-based Brookfield Renewables, block salmon from reaching their ancestral spawning and rearing habitat in the Sandy River, which enters the Kennebec in Starks. There is no viable spawning and rearing habitat for Atlantic salmon below the Sandy. These four dams also block vast amounts of habitat for other important species, including American shad, river herring (alewives and blueback herring), and eels.

But there is also some good news. An unlikely alliance of many individuals and groups — including the Natural Resources Council of Maine — spent many years restoring the Penobscot, and Taylor interviewed more than 50 people for his book. It’s amazing to me that this group never gave up, despite lots of problems, including raising tens of millions of dollars to buy and remove the dams.

They also had to overcome opposition by many who lived along and near the dams, because the dams produced clean energy.

I appreciated that Taylor also included some information about the effort to remove dams on the Kennebec River, because that’s where I spent my time and effort. After the federal government ordered the removal of the dam in Augusta, I enjoyed amazing fishing from Sidney to Waterville.

I’d put my boat in at the Waterville launch, and motor up and down the river, catching lots of fish. On my desk is a photo of me in my boat on the river, holding up a huge bass. And yes, I am smiling!

Over the years, I have fished the entire Kennebec River, from Moosehead Lake to Popham Beach. Dad and I would put our boat in the river in Bath and fish all the way to Popham. I’ll never forget the time a seal swam up and grabbed Dad’s fish.

I also fished the Penobscot River. I remember one time fishing the river on the Brewer side, right across from Bangor, and seeing two seals swimming up the river, enjoying a meal of fish.

Yes, removing the dams didn’t just please anglers.

The book includes lots of beautiful photos of the Penobscot River. And we can all be proud of the successful effort to remove those dams on this beautiful river. I encourage you to take a trip down the Penobscot and the Kennebec — and bring your fishing rod!

And please, support any effort to remove more of the dams on these wonderful rivers.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

 


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