BOSTON – On March 3, NELC’s Charles Caldart told the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that four hydroelectric dams on Maine’s Kennebec River, operated by affiliates of Brookfield Renewable Energy, are violating the Clean Water Act by allowing endangered Atlantic salmon and American shad to access the dams’ rapidly spinning turbines, where they face a high risk of injury or death.
Arguing on behalf of plaintiffs Environment Maine and Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Caldart explained to the Court that each dam’s license provides that, if the company desires to pass downstream-migrating adult salmon or shad through the turbines (as well as through fish bypasses or over the spillway), the companies must first demonstrate that turbine passage will be safe. And the companies admit that no showing of safety has been made.
Brookfield argued that the companies must merely make some effort, no matter how ineffective, to keep the fish out of the turbines. When a member of the three-judge panel asked, half in jest, whether Brookfield could simply put up a sign telling the fish to stay away from the turbines, Brookfield’s attorney replied that, yes, that would suffice.
A decision is expected before the end of the year.