Bush budgets $10 million for Penobscot River restoration

President Bush will ask Congress to appropriate $10 million in new funds to help restore sea-run fisheries in Maine’s Penobscot River by dam removal and other activities, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust announced.

The trust said the money is included in the president’s spending plan for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, proposed for the 2008 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2007. The trust made the announcement Jan. 26 about the president’s budget being delivered to Congress Feb. 5.

The NOAA budget is to include $38 million nationally for protecting and restoring coastal and marine areas, including the Penobscot River project to restore nearly 1,000 miles of habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon and other fish species, the trust said. Funding for the Penobscot River Restoration Project includes $8 million for dam acquisition and $2 million to NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation for technical assistance, studies, and engineering, the trust added.

The announcement was made a week after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a $1 million grant to the program. Additionally, Maine has committed $3 million to $5 million to help communities in the region benefit from the restored river.

Trust holds option to decommission hydro projects

The non-profit trust holds a five-year option to purchase 8-MW Veazie (No. 2403), 8-MW Great Works (No. 2312), and 2-MW Howland (No. 2721) dams for about $25 million. Veazie and Great Works are to be removed, and Howland Dam is to be decommissioned. The trust said it seeks funds from public and private sources for the acquisition. More than $7.5 million has been raised from private sources and Maine’s congressional delegation has helped secure more than $4.5 million in federal funds.

Partners in the restoration project include NOAA, the Department of Interior, dam owner PPL Corp., the Penobscot Indian Nation, the state of Maine, American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Audubon, the Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, and the trust.

In 2005, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved amendments to five PPL project licenses, implementing a settlement to restore Atlantic salmon and other migratory fish to the river. The settlement called for PPL to sell three Penobscot River dams. In return, the settlement includes improvements at four hydro developments, enabling PPL to retain more than 90 percent of its original generation. (HNN 6/2/06)

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