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Barb Witham is the secretary of the Union Salmon Association. Diane and Brad Perry are members of Friends of Graham Lake.
Recently, a vice president from Brookfield Renewable Corp. — the Canadian owners of the Ellsworth and Graham Lake dams — made a statement to our community through a column in the Bangor Daily News. This message comes after they have fought for over eight years to maintain the status quo of drawdowns at Graham Lake and after horrific ongoing fishkills at the turbines. Now they are proposing that the community should be satisfied that they will “voluntarily” limit drawdowns for a few months next summer and, if licensed, provide safe upstream passage for salmon, eels, alewives and shad by 2035 as prescribed by federal agencies.
Meanwhile on other rivers in Maine where they operate, they have made major investments and modernized quickly. Somehow Brookfield appears to feel that Ellsworth and the Union River deserves and should accept less. Thankfully, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and other state and federal agencies and our local municipalities and conservation groups aren’t going to accept second-class treatment for our river and lakes. The state standards for healthy water quality in Graham Lake and the Union River are clear.
As representatives of the Union Salmon Association and Friends of Graham Lake, we believe Brookfield offers much too little, way too late into the process. We and many others have been active throughout the eight-year relicensing process and in all this time have not seen any proposals from Brookfield that we believe suggest they are willing to invest in our community and can take good care of Graham Lake and the Union River.
If, as Brookfield suggests in their commentary, that by following Maine water quality and fisheries laws they will be forced to decommission their hydroelectric project, then we are more than capable of working with our community to build a future with a healthy, stable Graham Lake and productive Union River and bay full of fish and clean water without them.
We are proud to live in a community with the determination and creative ability to dream of something more than the status quo of muddy waters and shorelines full of dead mussels, eels, and alewives. The BDN has reported many times on this grim reality over many years. You can also see for yourself by taking a look into the unnaturally murky river as it flows through Ellsworth.
It’s time to clear up both our river and the facts around what’s possible. A more natural lake and healthy fisheries can coexist. We can and will create a better future for this river, Graham Lake and our communities, with or without Brookfield’s help.