Reviving a river

The Penobscot River Restoration Project


The Penobscot River, New England’s second largest river system, once flowed freely for more than 100 miles from Maine’s North Woods to the sea. 
Over two centuries, more than 100 dams were built that crippled its course, obstructing migratory paths of sea-run fish like Atlantic salmon, shad, eels and alewives and diminishing the water’s health and food for wildlife upstream.

Today, hundreds will watch as we begin a new era for Maine’s largest river by dismantling one of those dams: the Great Works Dam, 1,000 feet of concrete, timber and cribwork. Its removal is part of a broad effort that will eventually include removing two dams, modifying a third dam and increasing fish passage at four other dams (see map).

The Service has played a major role in this internationally known project from its initiation about 13 years ago. At that time, hydropower company PPL Corporation approached us and others to explore an innovative and comprehensive solution to a number of issues surrounding hydropower relicensing, fish passage, and the health of the Penobscot.

Great Works Dam

Great Works Dam

The result of our partnership was a strategy that redesigned the river’s use to provide enduring benefits for people and nature. You’ll see from our links below that this highly popular project is showing up all over the news and Web. Here’s why.

The Penobscot River Restoration Project will:

  • Maintain hydropower while conserving sea-run fisheries;
  • Bring more than $500 million in benefits to the local economy, including jobs, tourism and recreation, based on our 2012 fisheries economic report;
  • Reunite the Penobscot Indian Nation with their long-lost fisheries resources;
  • Restore natural processes to the river to improve its health and water quality;
  • Significantly improve access to 1,000 miles of habitat for 11 sea-run fish (see habitat map);
  • Signify our best chance for restoring wild Atlantic salmon in the U.S.; and
  • Relink the river’s web of wildlife, from insects to fish, birds and mammals.

This project will provide certainty for the future health of the river and its fisheries, as well as security in the business of energy generation. Our efforts to revive the Penobscot River will bring wide-ranging and long-lasting benefits to Maine. A revived Penobscot means a chance for recovered Atlantic salmon, historic migration and presence of other fish upstream, much-needed jobs in the area, and cultural resources important to the Penobscot Indian Nation.

But ultimately, a revived Penobscot will offer Americans the opportunity to again experience their inextricable links with this great river.

Find event details here, and read the press release. You can also check out some news stories previewing today’s milestone:

This is part of a series on fish passage. Read the other blog posts here.

9 Comments on “Reviving a river

  1. Pingback: Moving mussels | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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  8. Pingback: Grasping to Atlantic salmon memories | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

  9. Pingback: Knock down that dam! | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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