Folks meet in Ellsworth to discuss proposal to relicense dam

ELLSWORTH, Maine (WABI) - The Maine Department of Environmental Protection says the relicensing of a hydroelectric dam in Ellsworth is up on both state and federal ends.

Dozens came out to Ellsworth High School Tuesday to have their voices heard by those who work with Maine D-E-P about the process. The DEP will make the decision in March of 2020 on whether to approve or deny Black Bear Hydro Partners proposal.

Some are worried about turbidity and fish passage. Folks also voiced their concerns about Graham Lake's varying water levels.

Downeast Salmon Federations, Brett Ciccotelli said, "Right now, when the fish get up they're passed by a truck when they come back a lot of them get chopped up. We actually don't even know how many because there's no real good data collection on this. So, we want to see that change we don't want dead fish along businesses in Ellsworth anymore along the river."

Diane Perry, a resident of Mariaville, said, "I want to go home today and tell my grandkids that we're doing something. They know they are living in an environment with a climate crisis."

Mark Bergeron, Maine DEP, said, "One of the Department's job is to gather information on all sides. People in support of a proposal, people that may be opposed to it, so that we have the broadest amount of information to make the most informed decision."

Black Bear Hydro is a subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable. They released this statement Tuesday night.

“Black Bear Hydro, a subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable, extends our thanks to the Maine DEP for hosting the public meeting regarding the relicensing of our Ellsworth Project and its associated Water Quality Certificate (WQC). This meeting allowed stakeholders to be heard, as part of a much larger, ongoing effort. Relicensing is an extensive process that includes consultation with, and in most cases, sign off from, various ENGO’s and state and federal agencies. This includes numerous studies, assessments, negotiations and public meetings over the course of several years.

We fully recognize the challenges of the WQC in particular, as it relates to current operations, this is why we revised our proposal several months ago to better align with the FERC’s guidance, following their environmental assessment. This includes a higher seasonal minimum flow, and a revised drawdown limit that preserves flood control capabilities and the ability to generate clean, renewable hydropower for the people of Maine. We continue to defer to the pertinent state agencies on the 401 WQC process itself, and we will continue to work with, and communicate to all stakeholders when and where applicable, and when possible, alongside those pertinent agencies.”