The Maine Department of Marine has released a proposed amendment to their plan for the Kennebec River as it relates to Atlantic Salmon. Among other things, the plan calls for the elimination of two dams and the consideration of eliminating two others. The public has an opportunity to comment on this plan and I submitted the comments below in response.

I wish to add my voice to those of a large number of community leaders who have raised concerns about this plan amendment. Specifically, leaders of the towns within my district and in neighboring districts are concerned about the potential removal of existing dams and the economic, community, environmental and climate-related impacts that these actions could have.

I understand and acknowledge the importance of the iconic Atlantic salmon to our state. At the same time, I recognize that the hydropower facilities along the Kennebec have long been part of the local communities where they exist, providing recreation and economic benefits, including family-sustaining jobs and substantial local property tax revenues.

While the result of this process is the creation of a “guidance document” as indicated in state statutes, MRSA 12-§6171, the conclusions embedded in these types of documents have the ability to sway future actions. This makes the current step in the process more important than just a discussion about guidance.

In its draft Diadromous Resources Amendment, the Department of Marine Resources recommends removal of two dams and consideration of removing two others.

On page 34: “As a state agency responsible for managing diadromous fish and their habitat, MDMR recommends that the Shawmut Project and the Lockwood Project be decommissioned, and the dams removed. MDMR also recommends that the Hydro-Kennebec and Weston projects be considered for decommissioning and removal.”

I believe it would have been far better if the Department of Marine Resources, a public agency serving the people of Maine, had waited to make recommendations for removal of the dams until after it had given the public extensive opportunity to be heard regarding the impacts and their concerns.

While the department may be focused on what is best for the salmon population, this is clearly not the only group whose needs and impacts should be given considerable weight. The people of this region — taxpayers, citizens, voters, and our visitors — should be a primary focus of these considerations and recommendations.

Had it done so, I think far more weight would have been given to solutions that incorporate all concerns, such as fish passages, rather than removal, and other approaches that balance each point of view.

Going forward, I hope that the department goes well out of its way to listen to the people whose lives and livelihoods are the most impacted by whatever actions are ultimately taken regarding these dams and the habitat that exist around them.

Brad Farrin, a Republican from Norridgewock, is serving his second term in the Maine Senate.

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