Historic Partnership on Penobscot River Will Restore Fish Populations, Maintain Energy Production, Support Local Economies
BRADLEY, Me. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined the Penobscot River Restoration Trust and tribal, state and federal partners to begin the removal of the Great Works Dam, kicking off a multi-year restoration of Maine's largest river.
“Today marks an important milestone for river conservation in America,” Secretary Salazar said. “Through a historic partnership that exemplifies President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are reconnecting 1,000 miles of river, restoring vital habitat for fish and wildlife, expanding opportunities for outdoor recreation, and supporting energy production, jobs and economic growth in communities throughout Maine.”
The Penobscot River's tributaries flow from near Mount Katahdin in the North Woods through the heart of Maine to Penobscot Bay. It is the second largest river in New England, draining 8,570 square miles, nearly one-quarter of the state. Over two centuries, more than 100 dams have been erected throughout the watershed, altering the river's free flow and the migratory paths of native sea-run fish like the endangered Atlantic salmon.
The decommissioning and removal of the Great Works Dam, a 1,253 foot long dam located north of Bangor, is a cornerstone of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, a diverse public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hydropower companies Black Bear Hydro and PPL Corporation; the Penobscot Indian Nation; the Penobscot River Restoration Trust; the Atlantic Salmon Federation; The Nature Conservancy; American Rivers; Trout Unlimited; Maine Audubon and Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Maintaining hydroelectric power is a core element of the project. Black Bear Hydro expects to develop new hydropower capabilities in the Penobscot watershed at three hydroelectric facilities, allowing maintenance of full hydroelectric energy output along the river while reducing impact on migrating fish.
In 2010, President Obama launched the America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a conservation and outdoor recreation strategy for the 21st century built on partnerships and support for community efforts across the country.
Last November, Salazar highlighted the Penobscot River Restoration Project in a 50-State America's Great Outdoors Report outlining more than 100 of the country's most promising projects designed to protect special places and increase access to outdoor spaces.
During today's ceremony, Salazar announced that Interior has identified an additional $2.5 million in the FY 2013 budget request that would be dedicated toward Penobscot River restoration. As of today, the project is close to reaching the estimated $62 million needed for completion. Generous private funding from foundations, industry and private donors now totals $31 million, including $3.8 million in contributions in the last week, including from the Wyss Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and individual donors. Together, Interior and NOAA have brought the federal government's contribution to nearly $30 million.
Click here to read more about today's event and the benefits of the Penobscot River Restoration Project.
In the afternoon, Salazar traveled to Freeport, Maine where he joined outdoor retailer L.L. Bean and the National Park Foundation, the official non-profit of America's national parks, to underscore the power of outdoor recreation and tourism to strengthen local economies and create jobs in communities across the country.
Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation, and Chris McCormick, CEO of L.L.Bean, announced progress in a year-long effort to increase outdoor recreation among families and introduce more children to America's national parks. Nearly 350,000 stories, ideas and photos of outdoor experiences have been shared as part of the Million Moment Mission, an initiative to encourage outdoor activity. For every outdoor moment shared this year, L.L.Bean will donate a dollar - up to $1 million – to the NPF's “America's Best Idea” program.
“President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative is about reconnecting Americans – especially our young people – to the great outdoors,” said Salazar. “Through public-private partnerships, like the one between the National Park Foundation and L.L. Bean, we are putting resources and manpower behind the initiative that will inspire a new generation to get outside and get active.”