Water History

, 1:131 | Cite as

“Setting the river free”: The removal of the Edwards dam and the restoration of the Kennebec River



The Edwards Dam, located on the Kennebec River of Maine, in the state’s capitol city, was removed in 1999 to restore fisheries such as alewives, striped bass, American shad, and endangered short-nosed sturgeon. The dam removal was ordered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the express purpose of restoring fisheries, the first time ever this was done in American history. This article examines the local environmental advocacy for river and fisheries restoration and the process resulting in dam removal and fisheries restoration. It argues that the Edwards Dam removal was critical in proving the environmental benefits of river restoration through removal as well as some economic benefits. This contributed to other U.S. efforts to remove dams to restore fisheries and assisted the expansion of this stage of American environmentalism. The article uses a number of primary sources including local newspapers, environmental group materials, and a number of interviews collected by the author.


Kennebec River Augusta, Maine Dam removal Fisheries restoration River restoration Striped bass American shad Short-nose sturgeon Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Environmentalists 


  1. Adams G (1999) Maine demolition is first done against owner’s wishes. Seattle Times.com, 1 JulyGoogle Scholar
  2. Brack K (1990a) State explains its dam plan: local legislators unhappy over eminent domain proposal. Kennebec Journal, 16 March, 1, 12Google Scholar
  3. Brack K (1990b) Augusta takes on big brother for dam. Kennebec Journal, 19 March, 1, 8Google Scholar
  4. Brack K (1990c) Dam issue gets closer look. Kennebec J, 23 March, 1, 12Google Scholar
  5. Carpenter B (1989) Conservationists are challenging the utility of old dams. U.S. News and World Report, 16 October, 90Google Scholar
  6. Cheever D (1997a) City dissatisfied; plans appeal after a review. Kennebec Journal, 26 November, 1Google Scholar
  7. Cheever D (1997b) Coalition crows at federal decision. Kennebec Journal, 26 November, 1Google Scholar
  8. Cheever D (1998a) More join in Edwards appeal. Kennebec Journal, 5 January, 1Google Scholar
  9. Cheever D (1998b) Senators protest lack of reprieve for Edwards owners. Kennebec Journal, 9 February, 1Google Scholar
  10. Cheever D (1998c) Augusta approves pact on old dam: the city agrees to let the state take possession and dismantle the Edwards dam. Portland Press Herald, 5 MayGoogle Scholar
  11. Cheever D (1998d) Edwards removal OK’d: city signs agreement with state, manufacturing company. Kennebec Journal, 9 May, 1Google Scholar
  12. Chutchian KZ (1990) Kennebec fish stage A comeback: but dioxin still poses a problem. Kennebec Journal, 22 MarchGoogle Scholar
  13. Crane J (2009) Fancy foreshadowed a magnificent destiny: the market revolution and the Kennebec dam fight. In: Egan M, Crane J (eds) Natural protest: essays on the history of American environmentalism. New York, Routledge PressGoogle Scholar
  14. Cronon W (1995) The trouble with wilderness; or, getting back to the wrong nature. In: Cronon W (ed) Uncommon ground: rethinking the human place in nature. New York, W. W. Norton & Co, pp 69–90Google Scholar
  15. Goldberg C (1997) Fish are victorious over dams as U.S. agency orders shutdown. New York Times, 26 November, A16Google Scholar
  16. Grard L (2009) Alewives made huge splash: this year’s run could be largest in the U.S. Kennebec Journal Morning Sentinel, 2 JulyGoogle Scholar
  17. Grossman E (2002) Watershed: the undamming of America. Counterpoint, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Harden B (1990) With industry, sewage plans, citizens play role. Kennebec Journal, 22 MarchGoogle Scholar
  19. Harden B (1997) U.S. orders dam destroyed; for first time, fish habitat takes priority over a hydroelectric dam. Washington Post, 26 November, A1Google Scholar
  20. Hood L (1990) D.C. group explains support of plan to breach Edwards dam. Kennebec Journal, 22 MarchGoogle Scholar
  21. Howe PJ (1997) US ends Maine dam’s license as environment gets the nod. Boston Globe, 26 November, A1Google Scholar
  22. Jovin E (1998) Edwards dam: a watershed decision for hydropower. Electrical World, 212:3 (March), 44Google Scholar
  23. Lee P (1999) Maine river set free in ‘Act of Restoration’. Ottawa Citizen, 2 July, A7Google Scholar
  24. Leighton K (1989) Coalition ready to apply for control of Edwards Dam. Kennebec Journal, 3 MarchGoogle Scholar
  25. Lowery WR (2003) Dam politics: restoring America’s rivers. Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC, p 78Google Scholar
  26. Manlove G (1990a) Our river vastly improving, but cleanup battle isn’t over. Kennebec Journal, 20 March, 1Google Scholar
  27. Manlove G (1990b) Removal of dam would alter face of river. Kennebec J, 22 March, 8, 9Google Scholar
  28. McGillvray D (2000) River’s rebirth surprises even most ardent supporters. Kennebec Journal, 30 June, A1Google Scholar
  29. McPhee J (2002) The founding fish. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, p 77Google Scholar
  30. North JW (1870) The history of Augusta: from the earliest settlement to the present time. Clapp and North, Augusta, ME, pp 571–572Google Scholar
  31. O’Donnell M, Gray N, Wippelhauser G, Christman P (2000) Kennebec River diadromous fish restoration: Annual Progress Report—2000. Maine Department of Marine Resources, Augusta, Maine, p 8Google Scholar
  32. Paulson M (1999) Potomac watch: Babbitt shows abrasive outlook—by a dam site. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5 July. Seattle P-I.comGoogle Scholar
  33. Porter N (1994) Shortnose sturgeon at center of debate on damming rivers. Bangor Daily News, 15 SeptemberGoogle Scholar
  34. Stanley T (1988) Fish passage to be installed at Augusta dam. Kennebec Journal, 5 MayGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations