Paper Company Settles Presumpscot Fishery Restoration Dispute

Fishery restoration efforts on the Presumpscot River in Maine can now advance as part of an agreed preliminary settlement between Sappi Fine Paper North America, American Rivers, Inc., Friends of the Presumpscot River, the Department of Marine Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to a press statement from Sappi, all parties involved will work to pursue a final settlement agreement by the end of 2007 that will benefit both the river and its surrounding communities.

Portions of the preliminary agreement include removing all components of the Cumberland Mills Dam, installing fish lifts at Saccarappa Dam and initiating a trap and truck program that will jump-start the restoration of native sea-run species throughout the upper watershed. The parties' aim is to trigger fish passage at Mallison Falls, Little Falls and Gambo dams that will create improved fishing and recreational opportunities.

"The state of Maine continues to be a leader in the creation of smart hydropower, a balance between the need for renewable power sources and the health and the restoration of our native fisheries," said Gov. John Baldacci. "This preliminary agreement holds great hope for the health of the Presumpscot and the communities that depend on the fisheries, the river and sustainable energy production."

Under the preliminary agreement, all work on the removal of the Cumberland Mills Dam and all renovations to the area will be completed and operational by May 2011. Additional work will include fish lifts at Saccarappa Dam in 2016 and the upriver dams as fish return to the river.

Sappi announced the agreement July 10 during a press conference at the Riverbank Park Gazebo in Westbrook, Maine.

"We are proud to have come this far and reached a framework for settlement that will have a profound impact on the Presumpscot, both ecologically and economically, for years to come," said Dusti Faucher, president, Friends of the Presumpscot River. "Once a final settlement agreement is executed, we will have taken a huge step forward in restoring native fish species to our river. These species link our rivers and the ocean, and rebuild both ecosystems."

Over the years, Sappi has made enhancements to fishery resources on the Presumpscot. The company provides minimum flows downstream of the Eel Weir Dam for a recreational fishery, an area that has one of the highest use rates of any fishery in Maine.

Currently Sappi provides minimum flows for fisheries at four Sappi dams: Eel Weir, Dundee, Gambo and Mallison Falls. These minimum fisheries flows are provided to improve the fisheries opportunities for trout and other species on the Presumpscot River.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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