Destruction of Edwards Dam begins

A long campaign to restore fish spawning grounds on the Kennebec river in Maine is one step closer. Bulldozers began demolishing the Edwards Dam on 1 July. The Edwards dam is among the largest dams ever removed in the US.

The removal of Edwards dam is the result of a 1997 decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that stated that the environmental and economic benefits of a free-flowing Kennebec river were greater than the economic benefits of continued operation of the Edwards dam hydroelectric project.

FERC also rules that the dam’s owners, Edwards Manufacturing Co, had to pay for the removal of the 162-year-old, 305m long and 20m high dam. However, another company, Bath Iron Works, agreed to pay $2.5M for the removal of the dam in exchange for the right to fill in the resulting wetlands downstream.

The removal is expected to be complete by November.

The Kennebec Coalition, formed in 1989, with the goal of removing the Edwards dam, believes that “the Kennebec has been given a new lease of life”. Fish restoration efforts are planned, now that 27km of spawning grounds will be opened up.

Populations of 10 species of migratory fish are expected to benefit over the next 20 years from the dam removal, including: American shad, Atlantic salmon, striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon, short-nosed sturgeon, blueback herring and alewives.

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