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July 07, 2010
The Nature Conservancy(US) and other conservation groups have purchased 3 dams on Maine's Penobscot River.
Their efforts are part of an environmental and cultural restoration along the river, where the Penobscot people have lived for thousands of years. The river was once the tribe’s medicine cabinet, its water supply, highway and supermarket. Despite a century
of changes, the tribe hopes to revive the river’s central role in its life again.
Standing in the way of this revival, however, are several large hydroelectric dams.
While the tribe has won a series of court battles to clean up the river from decades of industrial pollution, its legal fight against the dams has made little headway.
But things began to change in August 2008, when the tribe, together with The Nature Conservancy and other partners in the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, exercised the option to purchase the dams outright for $25 million from the power company. The unprecedented
deal, which is still awaiting federal approval, is a carefully negotiated win-win for all the parties involved.
Now they plan to tear down the dams to restore Atlantic salmon, shad and other fish.
The deal is a rare pragmatic victory for both conservation and industry, one that required years of painstaking work to negotiate and years more to raise funds to buy the dams. While the challenges are not over — it turns out that tearing down a series of dams
is complicated and expensive work — the trust’s successes may help demonstrate the potential for restoring other rivers around the world.
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