I had the great pleasure of representing the citizens of Winslow and Benton in the Legislature for the previous eight years. I am writing to discuss the Kennebec River Management Plan currently being proposed by the Department of Marine Resources. In their plan they are recommending that eventually all the dams between Waterville and Madison be removed to allow for fish passage. I believe their main goal is to allow Atlantic salmon to reach the Sandy River, which was part of their historic spawning grounds.

I served on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee for four years and was a co-chair on the committee for my last two years. I have worked closely with many of the men and women who work for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and have developed a great respect for them. They are hardworking people who must balance a variety of issues to do what is in the best interest of the abundant wildlife we are so fortunate to have in our great state. I am sure the same can be said of those working for DMR.

However, I disagree with the part of their plan that calls for the removal of all the dams on the river. These dams, most of which were built many years before we were born, are now owned by Brookfield LLC. Brookfield has spent millions of dollars upgrading the generating facilities at these dams and they continue to provide clean hydropower to thousands of homes throughout central Maine. Why during this time when we are continuously talking about global warming and clean energy plans would we want to remove these dams?

Brookfield has submitted plans to build state-of-the-art fish passage facilities at all their dams, costing millions of dollars. In fact, they have already spent over $11 million to construct fish passage facilities at their newest dam, the Hydro-Kennebec Dam. Yet DMR has indicated that these will not work well enough to meet their plan and have called for their removal rather than working with Brookfield to design one that will.

There have been fish passage facilities successfully built all around the country and some even in this state. There are at least two facilities on the Penobscot River I am aware of that are passing thousands of Atlantic salmon and other species to points above and beyond dams each year. Are fish passage structures perfect, no. Do they let every fish make it upstream? No. But they are a reasonable compromise and let both the fish and dam coexist.

I am sorry but things are not going to return to the way they were a thousand years ago. People live and work along these great rivers the state of Maine is so fortunate to have. Great strides have been made in improving the quality of the water coming down these rivers since I have been alive. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 due much to the efforts of our own Sen. Edmund S. Muskie. Since that time, along the Kennebec in our area, the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment Plant was constructed, log dives were discontinued, the Scott Paper Pulp Mill in Winslow was shut down and a new pulp mill in Skowhegan (now Sappi) was constructed at its current location.


One of the main reasons it was constructed there was because of the abundant water supply provide by the impoundment created by the Shawmut Dam. If the Shawmut Dam is removed the water level at that location will drop by 15 to 20 feet. The mill’s current water intake structure, located along the west bank of the river, will be useless. To build a new intake structure, capable of withdrawing water from a free-flowing river at the volumes needed by the facility, will cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

That is assuming it will even work. A similar project was constructed at the Nine Dragons Pulp Mill in Old Town when the Great Works Dam was removed on the Penobscot River. Last year an application was filled with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection by Nine Dragons to modify its intake structure. The application included in its project description, and I quote, “Since the installation of the new water intake the applicant has experienced significant issues with sediment, debris, and ice blocking the intake and negatively impacting mill operations.”

Bottom line, the removal of the Shawmut Dam could put thousands of jobs, mill employees plus supporting businesses, in jeopardy.

In closing I strongly urge the DMR to work with Brookfield to come up with a fish passage plan as part of their river management plan rather than simply believing that dam removal is the only solution. I would also encourage anyone interest in finding out more about the Kennebec River Management Plan to go to the DMR website.

There is a public hearing regarding their plan on March 15. Anyone interested in speaking needs to register on their website. Written comments will be accepted until March 26.

Catherine M. Nadeau of Winslow served four terms as a Democratic state representative.

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