Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dam Undone

I'm probably risking a couple friendships here …

But if people can't love a hopeless environmentalist for who she really is, then so be it. In the words of a very wise man: "I yam what I yam."

So here I yam, cheering from the sidelines (my desk chair) as I watch the spectacular show (on video) of the Penobscot River Restoration


Penobscot River Photo by LewishB / Wikimedia
It began with a bang on June 11 as heavy equipment began crunching away at the Great Works Dam, one of the river's massive concrete impediments that have stifled natural flow for almost two centuries. Amid the din of demolition, a tribal elder from the Penobscot Indian Nation stood by and quietly fanned the smoke of sage, tobacco and sweet grass with an eagle's wing. A subtle ceremony to bless the river as it found its way toward freedom, at long last. 

Tribal chief Kirk Francis told the Portland Press Herald, “Today signifies the most important conservation project in our 10,000-year history on this great river that … has provided for our very existence.” 

The project involves the removal of the two lowermost dams on the Penobscot River, and the decommissioning of a third dam where a fish bypass will be constructed. Once completed, the project will have restored nearly 1000 miles of habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, river herring, eels, smelt, and several other species of sea-run fish in Maine. 

Atlantic salmon illustration by Timothy Knepp / USFWS

Fish passage will be improved at the four remaining dams, and energy increased at others, allowing significant ecological benefits to be realized without compromising energy production.

According to The Penobscot River Restoration Trust, this is "one of the largest, most creative river restoration projects in our nation's history."
Amen to that, friends.

(If you like this, check out footage of the Condit Dam Removal Project that finally set my husband's beloved White Salmon River free last year.)

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