SALMON CONSERVATIONISTS fighting to remove the West Winterport hydro dam in Maine, US have moved another step closer to their goal.

The state Department of Environmental Protection, has issued a draft order approving the permit application of Facilitators Improving Salmonid Habitat (FISH) to breach the dam across Marsh stream. FISH claims removal of the dam will improve water quality in Marsh stream while allowing the upstream migration of anadromous fish, including Atlantic salmon.

Opponents of the removal plan however argue the dam, constructed in the late 1940s with public funds, is critical for flood and ice control on the Marsh stream watershed and is a source of water for fire control, especially in the wooded areas of Frankfort, Winterport and Monroe. The towns of Frankfort and Winterport, where many residents oppose the project, are challenging the approval.

FISH must secure a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and a permit from the town of Winterport before the removal. FERC has issued a preliminary environmental survey in which it found no compelling reason not to allow removal of the dam, but has yet to issue a permit.