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Conservation groups ask Maine court to order a stop or halt in Kennebec River dams operations

The injunction would force Brookfield Renewable Partners to shut down or limit operations during two key time periods related to Atlantic salmon migration.
Credit: NCM

AUGUSTA, Maine — Four Maine conservation groups are hoping a federal judge orders Brookfield Renewable Partners to shut down or limit operations at its four dams on the Kennebec River during two time periods coinciding with Atlantic salmon migration.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation, Conservation Law Foundation, Maine Rivers, and Natural Resources Council of Maine filed the motion for preliminary injunction in United States District Court Tuesday.

The groups are asking a judge to issue an injunction that would stop or slow the dam's operations from Oct. 15 through Dec. 31 and from April 1 through June 30.

In a release, the groups said the first, and current, time frame is when adult salmon migrate downstream to the Gulf of Maine after spawning. The spring and summer dates are when younger salmon migrate downstream for the first time.

The groups filed a lawsuit against Brookfield in September claiming the international company violated the Endangered Species Act. The Natural Resources Council of Maine has held a stance that the only way to restore the endangered Atlantic salmon population in Maine is by removing the four dams on the Kennebec River.

Credit: NCM

The removal of two dams between Waterville and Skowhegan was the focus of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Kennebec River Management Plan. That plan was thrown out this year after Brookfield and stakeholder groups pointed out violations of certain legal issues in the rule-making process.

The Department has not yet updated that plan. The Shawmut dam in Fairfield is currently in its relicensing process, but that process could take years to be completed. 

Brookfield filed a complaint against the DMR and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in Maine Superior Court last month. The complaint alleged the two departments breached the 1998 Kennebec Hydro Developments Group Agreement. 

A spokesperson for the company released a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine in response to the legal filing. 

"We are disappointed that these special interest groups have followed up their September 9 complaint with a new motion for preliminary injunction. This motion largely repeats the same claims," the statement read in part. "This litigation can only serve to delay existing regulatory processes and implementation of fish passage solutions."

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