May 26, 2018  
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Restoring Sea Running Salmon, Shad and Alewives to Pondicherry and Harrison
Restoring Sea Running Salmon, Shad and Alewives to Pondicherry and Harrison

Restoring sea run fish to the entire Presumpscot River is guaranteed and
appropriate under the Clean Water Act (CWA), but if history repeats itself,
the Westbrook Industrial Powers will again derail the potential of a world
class fishery for the citizens of towns bordering Sebago and Long Lake
waters all the way to Bridgton and Harrison. The Friends of Sebago Lake
is standing against the fishery killing ”Sacarappa Agreement”(SA) which
is a blatant precedent setting violation of the Clean Water Act

Historical Background

In 1776, Pondicherry, now known as Bridgton, was one of the
Sebago Lake’s region towns mentioned in a petition to the
Massachusetts court protesting the blockage of salmon, shad, and
alewives by dams on the Presumpscot River. The petition states the
importance of these fishes to the local food supply.

By the 1800’s the Presumpscot River mill owners regained a
tightening grip over their politicians in government and again, blocked
without consequence to themselves, passage of salmon and other sea
run fish on the Presumpscot. A similar fate befell the rest of Maine’s
largest rivers. By the 1870’s the near shore coastal fishery was collapsing
and the Gulf of Maine fish stocks were depleted. As a result, Federal and
State governments realizing the resulting economic ruin of the coastal
fisheries, required dam owners to build fish passage. In less than a
decade by the early 1880’s, sea run anadromous fish returned to Sebago
and Long Lake. Other Maine rivers were restored also. Fishermen came
by the trainloads to Maine. Summer hotels and boarding houses dotted
the shorelines and hillsides. Inland steamer ships and carriages
transported tourists from the train stations to Maine lakes. The coastal
fishery became vibrant again. It was the age of the 10, 20 and 30 pound
salmon in the Sebago Lake Region. Fish commissioners wrote how the
numbers and sizes of spawning salmon in the Crooked River were
remarkable and for a stream its size they had never seen anything like it
in the whole country.

But, again by the early 1900’s the mill interests in Westbrook
blocked fish passage. The Presumpscot had become a private sewer
for the Industrial Powers through the 1900’s but the Clean Water Act
loosened their power. In 2002 a unanimous United States Supreme
Court decision against the South African Pulp and Paper Industries
(SAPPI) ruled that fish passage was required and appropriate on
Presumpscot River dams. The guts of this decision was that not only
must water quality be sufficient for native fish to live in but the fish too
must be present. Dams were considered dischargers because they do
change the quality of water flowing through them and that of any waters
impounded by them.

Again, restoration of this great fishery all the way to Bridgton and
Harrison and rivers, streams and lakes beyond could proceed.
Restoration could easily become reality in fifteen years but SAPPI has
submitted their plan which will derail the restoration of the entire
Presumpscot River Watershed. The town of Westbrook will gain some
recreational advantages but towns bordering the lakes and streams
above the lower Presumpscot River all the way to Waterford and Oxford
County are left with nothing. Even Westbrook would be left with a much
reduced sea run fishery in the future.

Friends of Sebago Lake (FOSL) and Friends of Merrymeeting Bay
(FOMB) support sea run anadromous fish restoration of the entire
Presumpscot River-Sebago Lake Watershed because:

1. Sea run or diadromous fish restoration to the Sebago Lake watershed
would greatly enhance the recreational economic value of these
water resources.

2. Restoration will improve the quality of life for people and wild species.

3. Restoration will improve and protect water quality in the entire
Presumpscot Sebago lake watershed.

4. River restoration will help restore the coastal fisheries of the Gulf of

5. Full restoration preserves the integrity of the Clean Water Act and
complies with original legislative intent.

Why FOSL opposes the Sacarappa Agreement (SA):

1. The SA will eliminate fish passage as stipulated in the 2003 Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licenses for the Presumpscot
River called Gambo and Dundee dams.

2. The SA prevents sea run fish restoration of the Sebago Lake
Watershed during the present FERC license plus ten additional years.

3. The SA eliminates guarantees of fish passage after the SA
extended license expires in 2053 for Gambo and Dundee dams.

4. This SA agreement and changes to the FERC licenses for the
Presumpscot River dams violates tenets of the Clean Water Act. If
private parties and public agencies working together in secret
without public scrutiny or citizen access to information are
permitted to make major revisions to FERC dam licenses, no river
or inland waters in any state are safe from the wants of special
interests that will alter the amounts and timing of seasonal water
flows and continue the degradation and destruction of natural

5. New “no stocking” provisions in the SA will further delay passage at
Mallison and Little Falls dams.

What is the Sacarappa Agreement (SA)?

The parties of this private agreement are SAPPI of Westbrook which
owns the five lower river dams, Friends of the Presumpscot River,
Conservation Law Foundation, the City of Westbrook, US Fish and
Wildlife, and Maine Department of Marine Resources. On December 28,
2016 the SAPPI Corporation filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission a request for an amendment to extend again the time frame
for completed fish passage and river restoration at Sacarappa Dam in
Westbrook. This private agreement states that fish passage at Gambo
and Dundee dams upriver in Windham are “not required or appropriate”.
We, the Friends of Sebago Lake (and FOMB), have filed an appeal with
the Maine Board of Environmental Protection to counter this private
agreement that threatens the very tenets of the Clean Water Act as to
habitat restoration and restoring historical ecosystems.

A great tragedy was brought upon Maine when the Presumpscot
River was dammed without fish passage. The salmon, shad, alewives and
other sea run species are prevented from accessing their spawning habitat
of the inland lakes including Sebago Lake that empty into the
Presumpscot River. These fish were vital to the local citizenry and were
crucial for maintaining the food base for a vibrant coastal fishery. In past
centuries, fish passage, for a few decades at a time, was maintained on
the dams when citizens moved the government to require mill owners to
construct fish passage. Unfortunately, the lobby of industrial powers won
over the legislature to allow non passable dams for fish and turning rivers
into their private sewers. The results from past periods of successfully
enforced fish passage especially in the late 1800’s are legendary as
newspaper articles and the Fish Commissioners annual reports of that
time will attest. In an 8 year period from the 1870’s to the early 1880’s
working fishways were built on the seven existing Presumpscot River dam
Presently, the Clean Water Act requires fish passage on the dams of the
Presumpscot River when these migrating fish become present at the base
of these non passable impoundments. This is why fish passage must be
provided by the SAPPI corporation at the Sacarappa dam in Westbrook. A
private Sacarappa Agreement (SA) has been made with SAPPI and other
entities that delays passage at this dam and its adjacent two upstream
dams at Little Falls and Mallison. But most importantly, it eliminates fish
passage at Gambo and Dundee dams during the duration of the license of
these two dams. Also, the SA mandates an additional ten year extension
of the Gambo dam license. Fish Passage cannot be considered until
2053. Nothing in the agreement guarantees fish passage would even be
considered at that distant time. Vast potential areas of fish spawning and
living habitat of the upper Presumpscot River, Sebago Lake and its
watershed will be cut off if this agreement is approved by the Maine Board
of Environmental Protection (MBEP) and the FERC . This precedent
setting Sacarappa agreement states fish passage at Gambo Dam is “not
required or appropriate.” In 2008 the US Supreme Court decided
unanimously in State of Maine vs SAPPI that fish passage was required
on Presumpscot river dams and on all dams where these sea run fish
historically migrated.

This agreement if it is approved by FERC will ruin the gains made by
this most important Clean Water Act court case. All river restoration in New
England would be at risk if this Sacarappa Agreement becomes law.
The restoration of the sea run fish migration in the Presumpscot will
translate to great gains in the economy of the region and coastal waters
and quality of all life. This is why the Friends of Sebago Lake have filed an
appeal to MBEP and a Motion to Intervene to FERC opposing the
Sacarappa Agreement (SA). FOSL believes that laws in place must be
enforced. Fish passage at Sacarappa must occur now. If Gambo and
Dundee Dam’s no fish passage clause, the no stocking provision for
young alewives, and and passage delays for Little Falls and Mallison
dams are all removed from the SA, it would be reasonable for SAPPI to
have two extra years to build fish passages and engineer water flow over
Sacarappa Falls conducive to kayaking. SAPPI already has been granted
a 2 year extension.

The SA includes a sentence that this agreement establishes no
precedents as to State Water Quality Certification but for the Clean
Water Act (CWA), it is a precedent. The approval of this SA will stand as
the first time the CWA is overturned by private interests at the expense of
the greater good of Maine citizens. We should be worried. The SA is
complicated and lengthy. It is doubtful some individuals who signed the
agreement and members of organizations supporting it were even aware
of the provisions eliminating existing fish passage and future guarantees
of passage.

FOSL’s appeal to the MBEP in opposition to the Sacarappa
Agreement is now being strongly fought by a powerful foreign corporation,
South African Pulp and Paper Industries (SAPPI) and the State Attorney
General’s office on behalf of the Maine Dept. of Marine Resource who like
their predecessors for the past one hundred and fifteen years have
accommodated the dam owners. In their filings to the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, SAPPI argues Friends of Sebago Lake (FOSL)
and Friends of Merrymeeting Bay (FOMB) whose members are Maine or
United States citizens have no standing or right to intervene before FERC
in this proceeding which affects fish passage in the Presumpscot River
watershed. If FOSL and FOMB succeed in requiring the present dam
licenses be honored and adhered to, teenagers of the present
Presumpscot River, Sebago Lake-Long Lake Region and Casco Bay will
be able to see and experience with their young children what their
ancestors enjoyed and appreciated as one of the finest fisheries in the

Meredith Wheeler
President, Friends of Sebago Lake
email: tel: 207-935-2994

Posted on Saturday, March 4, 2017 (Archive on Saturday, March 25, 2017)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre

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