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Posts Tagged ‘penobscot’

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Reports the
Stanford News, “A new agreement brings together hydropower and river conservation communities to fight climate change while restoring and sustaining rivers.”

I love getting tips on blog-worthy topics. This week, Earle sent an article from the Stanford News about a truce between environmentalists and hydropower companies, a promising rapprochement. People on opposing sides of a critical issue working quietly together to find common ground.

Devon Ryan wrote, “A dialogue organized by Stanford that brought together environmental organizations, hydropower companies, investors, government agencies and universities has resulted in an important new agreement to help address climate change by advancing both the renewable energy and storage benefits of hydropower and the environmental and economic benefits of healthy rivers.”

The New York Times also covered the peacemaking. Here is Brad Plumer on the topic: “The industry that operates America’s hydroelectric dams and several environmental groups announced an unusual agreement Tuesday to work together to get more clean energy from hydropower while reducing the environmental harm from dams, in a sign that the threat of climate change is spurring both sides to rethink their decades-long battle over a large but contentious source of renewable power.

“The United States generated about 7 percent of its electricity last year from hydropower, mainly from large dams built decades ago, such as the Hoover Dam, which uses flowing water from the Colorado River to power turbines. But while these facilities don’t emit planet-warming carbon dioxide, the dams themselves have often proved ecologically devastating, choking off America’s once-wild rivers and killing fish populations.

“So, over the past 50 years, conservation groups have rallied to block any large new dams from being built, while proposals to upgrade older hydropower facilities or construct new water-powered energy-storage projects have often been bogged down in lengthy regulatory disputes over environmental safeguards. …

“In a joint statement, industry groups and environmentalists said they would collaborate on a set of specific policy measures that could help generate more renewable electricity from dams already in place, while retrofitting many of the nation’s 90,000 existing dams to be safer and less ecologically damaging.

“The two sides also said they would work together to accelerate the removal of older dams that are no longer needed, in order to improve the health of rivers. More than 1,000 dams nationwide have already been torn down in recent decades.

“The statement, the result of two years of quiet negotiations, was signed by the National Hydropower Association, an industry trade group, as well as environmental groups including American Rivers, the World Wildlife Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Another influential organization, The Nature Conservancy, listed itself as a ‘participant,’ signaling that it was not prepared to sign the full statement but would stay engaged in the ongoing dialogue over hydropower policies.

“Bob Irvin, the president of American Rivers, which has long highlighted the harm that dams cause to the nation’s waterways, said that growing concern over global warming had caused some environmentalists to reassess their longstanding opposition to hydropower. …

Mr. Irvin emphasized that his group would still oppose any effort to build new dams on rivers. But that still left plenty of room for compromise.

“As an example, he pointed to the Penobscot River in Maine, where environmentalists, energy companies and the Penobscot Indian Nation reached a landmark agreement in 2004 to upgrade several dams in the river basin while raising money to remove two other dams that had blocked fish from migrating inland for more than a century. The result: The hydropower companies on the Penobscot ended up producing at least as much clean electricity as before, while endangered Atlantic salmon have returned to the rivers. (For more on that, read an article I acquired for my former magazine, here.) …

“Said Malcolm Woolf, president of the National Hydropower Association, ‘We’re now willing to talk about removing uneconomic dams, and environmentalists are no longer talking about all hydropower being bad.’

“Energy experts have said that adding more hydropower could provide a useful tool in the fight against climate change. While wind turbines and solar panels are becoming more widespread, they don’t run all the time, and hydroelectricity can offer a backstop as utilities clean up their electrical grids. …

“ ‘We’re not talking about the Hoover Dams of old,’ said Jose Zayas, a former Energy Department official who oversaw the study. ‘There have been some big technological advances that now let us produce more energy in a much more sustainable way.’ Some companies are designing new turbines that allow fish to pass safely through, while others are looking at ways to reduce oxygen depletion in the water caused by dams.

“One particularly promising approach is to build more facilities known as pumped hydro storage, an old technology that involves connecting two reservoirs of water, one at a higher altitude than the other. When there’s surplus electricity on the grid, these facilities use that power to pump water from the lower reservoir to the higher one. When electricity is needed, such as during lulls in wind or solar power, the water flows back downhill, spinning a turbine to generate electricity.”

More at the New York Times, here. And you can read Devon Ryan’s Stanford News interview with “Dan Reicher, a former U.S. assistant secretary of energy, and board member of the conservation group American Rivers, who launched and helped lead the meetings,” here.

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If the five unexpected salmon are a sign of a comeback in the Connecticut River, this could be really exciting.

Nate Schweber writes at Al Jazeera America, “By the fall of 2015, the salmon of the Connecticut River were supposed to be doomed. The silvery fish … went extinct because of dams and industrial pollution in the 1700s that turned the river deadly. In the late 1800s a nascent salmon stocking program failed. Then in 2012, despite nearly a half-century of work and an investment of $25 million, the federal government and three New England states pulled the plug on another attempt to resurrect the prized fish.

“But five Atlantic salmon didn’t get the memo. In November, fisheries biologists found something in the waters of the Farmington River — which pours into the Connecticut River — that historians say had not appeared since the Revolutionary War: three salmon nests full of eggs.

“ ‘It’s a great story,’ said John Burrows, of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, a conservation group, ‘whether it’s the beginning of something great or the beginning of the end.’ …

“The streamlined wild Atlantic salmon, genetically different from their fattened domesticated counterparts, which are mass-produced for human consumption, are so rare that anglers spend small fortunes chasing them across Canada, Iceland and Russia. …

“The stocked salmon continued to die off through the early 1970s. Gradually, scientists began to learn the importance of different strains of salmon and their close relatives, trout. In 1976 the program was able to acquire Atlantic salmon eggs from the Penobscot River in Maine, the closest surviving population both physically and genetically. This strain was still different from the lost native strain of the Connecticut River, but less so than their Canadian cousins, previously stocked there. In 1978, 90 fish from the Maine strain managed to make the two-year, 6,000-mile migration out to the food-rich Labrador Sea off of Greenland and then return to the Connecticut River. …

“As only 54 salmon returned to the Connecticut River in 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pulled out of the restoration program. New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts followed. Connecticut opted to continue stocking a small number of salmon …

“Then in the fall of 2015, biologists found five adult Atlantic salmon swimming past the Rainbow Dam on the lower Farmington River. On a hunch, they searched likely upstream spawning habitat and there found the three nests full of eggs.

In the spring of 2016 they will hatch the first wild salmon into that river in two centuries.”

More here.

Photo: Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
In North America, Atlantic salmon migrate up rivers and streams to reach spawning grounds in New England and Canada.

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Casey Kelly has a story at WBUR’s Only a Game on a sport enabled by the removal of dams on the Penobscot River in Maine.

The recent removal of two dams (and upgrades to others) in Maine’s Penobscot River made available over 1,000 miles of habitat for Atlantic salmon and other fish — and also made the river available to whitewater enthusiasts.

“The dam removal was the culmination of years of restoration efforts by several groups. The Penobscot Nation, for whom the river has been vital for centuries, helped lead that effort.

“ ‘The creator put us here, in the Penobscot River Valley,’ said James Eric Francis, Sr., the director of cultural and historic preservation for the Penobscot Nation. ‘We are surrounded by the sacred river.’

“Last month, paddlers from all over the country gathered for a race celebrating the removal of the dams.” More here, including a video.

Here’s how freeing the river came about. It was a major collaboration by disparate groups committed to identifying and acting on the values they held in common.

Photo: Craig Dilger for The New York Times  
The dismantling of the Veazie Dam is also giving 11 species of fish better access to 1,000 miles of spawning habitat.

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