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A Story of Success

The Penobscot River is remarkably cleaner than it was just forty years ago. In 1972, Maine’s own Senator Ed Muskie, after growing up along the very polluted banks of the Androscoggin River in Western Maine, passed landmark legislation known as the Clean Water Act. Up until that point, Maine’s rivers were open sewers and residents might recall seeing their neighbors use the Penobscot as a means to dispose of household trash. Now, with regulations in place, communities and industry are required to treat waste and sewage before discharging it. With our leadership on the Clean Water Act, Maine set the tone for the nation and we remain a leader in restoring our rivers to their former glory.

While much work remains to be done, the Penobscot is a particular success story in many regards. For example, as far back into our history as the 18th century, commercial fishing has been a way of life for many along the Penobscot. Recreational salmon fishermen also flock to the Penobscot River in droves. The area was home to the nation's first salmon club and, up until 1992, the first Atlantic salmon caught each year on the Penobscot was sent to the President of the United States. Pollution and construction of large dams blocking passage of migratory fish including the Atlantic salmon, American shad and alewife, ultimately resulted in a serious decline in populations.

Recent improvements in water quality, coupled with successful efforts to provide safe passage and restore sea-run fish species to the river, have finally seen a return to this rich sporting heritage along the riverfront. Our sportsmen and women share in our mission of continuing to protect these waters and the cultural, economic and social traditions that we all care so deeply about and depend on.

Dam Removal

Penobscot River Restoration Project

Penobscot River Restoration Project

Starting back in late 2004, a diverse coalition was formed called the Penobscot River Restoration Project whose objective was to restore 11 species of sea run fish back into the Penobscot River. Penobscot River Restoration Project was an unprecedented and ultimately successful collaboration between the Penobscot Indian Nation, seven conservation groups, hydropower companies PPL Corporation and Black Bear Hydro, LLC, and state and federal agencies. 

The Penobscot River Restoration project removed the Great Works Dam in 2012, the Veazie Dam in 2013 and decommissioned and built a bypass around the Howland Dam in 2016. Thanks to this innovative and creative restoration project, access to nearly 2,000 miles of sea-run fish habitat has been greatly increased so that fish like the Atlantic salmon and shortnose Sturgeon can thrive again in the Penobscot, all while hydro power has continued to be produced on the river. 

While the project has come to a close, we encourage you to take a look at their fact sheet to learn more!

Penobscot River Restoration Project

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