ELLSWORTH — Workers with the Downeast Salmon Federation have been trying to restore fish in the Union river for years.
Fisheries biologist Brett Ciccotelli said the Brookfield Renewable’s Ellsworth Dam is killing herring and eels.
“We find hundreds, or thousands sometimes, of baby alewives. Or we find big, three-foot-long eels that are dead right below this dam,” Ciccotelli said.
Barbara Witham, secretary of Union Salmon Association, said this problem has been going on since the dam was built in 1907.
“We lost the battle then and now we’re battling again to try to raise awareness of what’s going on,” Witham said.
According to Ciccotelli, Brookfield has been in an eight-year relicensing process to determine what the next 40 years could look like for the river.
“This whole process is now held by the state. So the state of Maine has issued a denial for this project. They said this dam can’t operate the way it’s been operating,” Ciccotelli said.
He added the No. 1 priority is improving downstream passage for fish.
“We think Brookfield could stop and redirect fish a different way.”
These improvements, Ciccotelli and Witham agree, will bring back the river’s potential.
In a statement to ABC 7 and Fox 22, Brookfield Renewable spokeswoman Miranda Kessel said: “Black Bear Hydro Partners, LLC, a Brookfield Renewable subsidiary, voluntarily implemented fish passage measures in consultation with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state and federal fisheries agencies.
“Acquired by Brookfield Renewable in 2014, the fish passage measures at the Ellsworth facility have been in effect since 2015. These consistent actions have resulted in a significant reduction of fish mortality events,” she said. “Black Bear Hydro continues to identify measures to further improve fish passage at the Ellsworth facility and, under the FERC relicensing process, supports the development of a robust fish passage system.”