There has recently been a lot of discussion in the newspaper about removing four dams on the Kennebec River. The idea is to make it easier for salmon that live along the coast of Maine to go upriver to reach a place to lay their eggs and produce young salmon that will grow and go back down the river to the seacoast where salmon fishers can catch and sell them for food.

This kind of salmon fishing has been happening for a very long time. It started well before the American revolution and creation of the United States of America. As the population of the United States expanded there was more demand for salmon and more fishing was done to catch them. It was a good part of the Maine economy.

One of the first hydroelectric dams built on the Kennebec River was built in the late 1800s between Waterville and Winslow. Most of this energy was used by a manufacturing plant. This dam didn’t seem to be a problem for the salmon fishing economy. Other dams were built later to produce electricity.

Electricity became available at the house where I was born in the 1920s. At that time railroad trains were using coal to generate steam for the energy to pull railroad cars. This put carbon dioxide into the air.

Later, when we needed more electricity than was being produced by hydroelectric dams, we burned fossil fuel to get electricity. A lot of the electricity supported our manufacturing economy.

Now we know that burning fossil fuels to get energy is causing climate change. The world is getting much warmer. The large ice caps at the north and south poles are melting. The oceans are rising and flooding some of the shoreline. The ocean water is getting much warmer than before.


Now we know that some of the salmon that live along the coast of Maine don’t like this warm water and are migrating north to live along the coast of Nova Scotia instead of along the coast of Maine. I was told about this by a University of Maine professor about 15 years ago. The professor said that removing dams is not the solution to having more salmon to catch along the coast of Maine. He said that we need to burn less fossil fuel to get the energy that we want to use for many purposes if we want more salmon to be available along the coast of Maine.

It doesn’t make good sense to me to remove four dams along the Kennebec River to catch more salmon along the coast of Maine. The dams are not the problem. The problem is burning too much fossil fuel. If these dams are removed right now, we will need to get more of our electricity from fossil fuel until we have built enough solar farms and windmills to get the electricity that we need. It might be a good idea to find other places to build some dams to get more electricity. Maybe we should replace the dam that used to exist in Augusta.

I do think it is a good idea to have fishways at the dams to allow salmon, alewives, and other fish to go up the rivers to find good places for reproduction. The town of Winslow recently approved an application submitted by the owners of the dam between Waterville and Winslow to construct a more effective fishway at this dam.

I also think it is a good idea to use fish hatcheries to reproduce salmon and maybe other fish that we want to have living along the coast of Maine. Some of the people who want to catch salmon on the coast of Maine are already doing this. They use trucks to bring young salmon to the coast of Maine and put them in a place surrounded by nets that will not let them migrate north to cooler water along the coast Nova Scotia.

We could do more of this. It occurs to me that others who want to catch more salmon along the coast of Maine could get together and form a corporation to share the cost of doing the same thing: use a fish hatchery and nets to be able to get the fish that they want to grow and sell for good food.

I want the government of the state of Maine to consider these alternatives and come up with a better solution than dam removal to support our salmon fishing industry while as quickly as possible finding other ways to get the electric energy that we all need without burning fossil fuel.

Elery Keene lives in Winslow.

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