Gee Whiz

River Dams in Maine, Future NOT Clear Flowing

Activists in Maine advocate shutting down river dams, at least for a few months. The Atlantic salmon run, from mid April through early June, is severely hindered by the use of river dams. According to Ed Friedman, the spokesman for Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, these salmon are on the verge of extinction on the Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers and dams used to power hydro-electric turbines slaughter nearly half the passing salmon on their expedition to the ocean.

The dams in question are located in Brunswick, Waterville, Skowhegan and Fairfield Maine. These dams are used to help produce electricity for surrounding power grids. However, shutting down the turbines will only have a minimal impact on the energy production because of the many other alternative energy resources available in today’s power grid.

River dams have been here in Maine for hundreds of years, primarily used as a means to create electricity. Dams are also used to regulate water level and fish population on the river. The first dams were much more primitive than that of today, severely limiting the ability of fish to migrate amongst their natural paths. In recent years, new dams have been designed with special fish ladders and fish lifts.

We need to find a compromise where we can still keep the dams for additional electricity production but not limit the migration patterns of a keystone species in the local ecosystems.

Originally, dams were a necessity to power the mills and plants nearby. Today it’s not the case; technological advances enable even the most remote of factories to have a reliable and constant flow of electricity.

If we eliminate river turbines and replace them with alternative energy stations such as solar panels we can have all the advantages of having river turbines, creating electricity to supplement the local power grid and at the same time there won’t be any of the negative impacts on local animal species.

The Atlantic salmon are a very important animal to the ecosystem in the rivers of Maine and to those in the surrounding area. People don’t understand the full effect of eliminating one species and what the impacts include. “Salmon are important to the local ecosystem; they are a major food source for animals such as the bear. Eliminating salmon will not be very good for the Maine rivers health”, said Elmer DeForge, studying Conservation Law Enforcement. The health of the rivers in Maine impacts the health of surrounding ecosystems as well. They all are interdependent on each other.

Fortunately today, some dams are being removed due to the undeniable environmental impacts they have on their surroundings, such as the Edwards dam in Augusta Maine. The future of river dams here in Maine and the survival of the Atlantic salmon is at the mercy of the federal judge and where they stand on the issue. The citizens of Maine need to advocate helping stop the slaughtering of one of our keystone species here in Maine!

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-Arthur Nerzig

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