A recently completed fish bypass around the dam in Howland stands as the last major milestone in the Penobscot River Restoration Project.
The large stream-like channel will allow American shad, river herring, and Atlantic salmon to swim freely around the dam to and from important historic breeding, rearing, and nursery habitat for the first time in more than a century.
The Howland fish bypass fulfills the Penobscot Project’s goal of significantly improving access to nearly 1,000 miles of Maine’s largest river for eleven species of native sea-run fish, while maintaining energy through increased hydropower generation at other dams in the watershed.
The Penobscot Project is widely considered one of the largest, most innovative river restoration projects in the nation.
Four years ago, in June 2012, the Great Works Dam removal began, followed by the removal of the Veazie Dam at the head of tide in 2013.
At the same time, dam owners built a fish elevator at the Milford Dam, now the only dam on the lower Penobscot. Dam owners increased power generation at several other locations within the Penobscot watershed to maintain and even increase power generation.
This year, more than 1.7 million river herring have already passed above dams removed by the Penobscot Project – up from only several thousand before the Veazie Dam was removed.
Fish are now swimming upriver past Howland and into the Piscataquis and through the Mattaceunk Dam on the Penobscot in Medway, and have been observed more than 90 miles upriver from Penobscot Bay.
In addition, a record-breaking 2,700 shad passed by Milford this spring. Also this year, fisheries experts saw the first American shad in recent history passing the West Enfield dam.
The restored river provides many cultural, economic, and recreational opportunities from the Penobscot headwaters to the Gulf of Maine.
The Penobscot River Restoration Trust is a nonprofit organization responsible for completing the core elements of the Penobscot Project. Members are the Penobscot Indian Nation, American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Trout Unlimited, and The Nature Conservancy. Other major partners include the State of Maine (Department of Marine Resources, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife), Department of the Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs), PPL Corporation, and Black Bear Hydro Partners LLC.
source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service