PPL has an agreement with government agencies, private non-profit conservation groups and the Penobscot Indian Nation that will result in the sale of Veazie, Great Works and Howland dams for about US$25M. The buyers plan to remove two dams and bypass a third, improving access to 804.5km of river for the Atlantic salmon and 10 other native species of migratory fishes.

The plan has paid its first major dividend for the local community, with another 10,000MWh of hydroelectricity on the cards.

‘This spring, we are adding enough capacity at our other dams to power 1000 homes with clean, efficient and reliable hydroelectric energy,’ said Dennis Murphy, vice president and chief operating officer of PPL’s Eastern Fossil and Hydro unit. ‘This new green power is a significant benefit for the environment and for the region.’

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust has until June 2009 to purchase PPL’s three dams at the stated amount. Veazie and Great Works would be removed, and the Howland dam would be decommissioned and a bypass channel installed for fish migration.

Parties to the agreement include the US Department of the Interior; the US Bureau of Indian Affairs; the US Fish and Wildlife Service; the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; the Maine Department of Marine Resources; the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission; the Penobscot Indian Nation; American Rivers; the Atlantic Salmon Federation; Trout Unlimited; the Natural Resources Council of Maine; and the Penobscot River Restoration Trust.

PPL has already increased power output at its Medway, West Enfield and Stillwater dams, by placing higher flashboards on top of the structure, raising the water level by 30.5cm. This higher water level increased the pressure of water flowing through the turbines, in turn increasing their electrical output.

Part of the Maine agreement allows PPL to increase the power output at its other hydroelectric dams in the state. The increase at Medway, West Enfield and Stillwater is the first phase of that output expansion. A decision on whether to further expand hydroelectric output at other dams has not yet been made and will depend on market conditions and other factors.

The Penobscot river, located in eastern Maine, supports the largest remaining run of Atlantic salmon in the US. Its restoration is expected to stimulate economic benefits for businesses and communities in the area as the prized Atlantic salmon, American shad, river herring and other migratory species return.