In this Aug.  20, 2021, file photo, the Shawmut Dam is seen on the Kennebec River between Fairfield and Benton. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Federal energy regulators will put together a full environmental impact statement for four Kennebec River dams to examine their effects on highly endangered Atlantic salmon.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had proposed only a less-comprehensive assessment that would have looked at the dams one by one. But it also was being pushed by federal fisheries managers and local conservation groups calling for the full analysis.

“We think it’s this kind of analysis you need that takes a look at the system and says if we’re going to make this work, here’s what we’ve got to do at this entire suite of dams,” said Jeffrey Reardon, a scientist at Trout Unlimited.

He called it a rare reversal by the commission. And he said the last time the agency took a big-picture look at Kennebec River dams, 25 years ago, it led to the removal of the Edwards and Fort Halifax dams.

A spokesperson for the Canada-based dam owner, Brookfield Renewables, said the move will delay implementation of fish passage improvements and create uncertainty for communities with economies tied to the dams.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.