Maine Board of Environmental Protection upholds denial of Brookfield's application for Water Quality
Without this certificate these dams cannot be relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Ellsworth Dam and the muddy Union River, March 2021
On Thursday, June 3rd the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) voted
overwhelmingly to affirm the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s denial of water quality certification for Brookfield Renewable's two Union River dams located in downtown Ellsworth and at the base of Graham Lake.
The BEP’s order made clear that Brookfield’s large, ecologically destructive water drawdowns
from Graham Lake violate state water quality standards in Graham Lake and the river below it, and that current operations of the downriver dam in Ellsworth is causing depleted dissolved oxygen in the impoundment.
"We applaud the Board’s vote to uphold Maine’s water quality laws,” said Dwayne Shaw, the
Executive Director of the Downeast Salmon Federation. "The Department and the Board of
Environmental Protection scrupulously followed Maine law to ensure that our rivers and lakes
are protected. At Thursday’s board meeting, and throughout this process Brookfield never
offered any information to show how it would eliminate these violations if its application were approved.”
“Brookfield’s operations of its Union River dams has been totally inconsistent with its repeated corporate statements about how it treats the environment,” said Downeast Salmon Federations’s Restoration and Engagement Coordinator Brett Ciccotelli. “Brookfield claims in their official 2020 report describing their environmental and social commitments that,
‘We believe that our success will not simply be driven by strong investment returns and
operational excellence, but also by how we interact with our environment, our people and
the communities where we operate’. [Brookfield Renewable ESG Report, page 6]
“It is high time that on the Union River Brookfield walks its talk,” Ciccotelli said, “we don’t see how arguing against meeting Maine law, killing fish, and mudding our river lives up to those ideals.” Ciccotelli described how, in that same Brookfield ESG report, they state,
'Water flows through our hydroelectric stations and is returned to the rivers with no
change to its properties.’ [Brookfield Renewable ESG Report 2020, page 23]
“Yet any Mainer can see from aerial photos from this Spring and last Fall the Union River comes into Brookfield’s impoundments clean and flows out dirty.”
Dwayne Shaw continued “Since 2013, DSF has spearheaded the public’s effort to change the
operations of these two dams. We have advocated for the immediate installation of high quality upstream and downstream fish passage to prevent the fish kills happening each year and to allow natural migrations to occur. These actions will begin to restore the hundreds of thousands of native sea-run fish that once lived in the Union River—including endangered Atlantic salmon, American shad, American eel, and river herring. We’ve been supported along the way by community members, by the Friends of Graham Lake, and by the Passamaquoddy Tribe.”
Mr. Shaw went on to note, "While Brookfield may try, yet again, to avoid responsibility for
operating their dams by appealing this decision in State court, we do not believe Brookfield will be successful in these actions. The BEP’s decision is supported by decades of well-established law and precedent. Brookfield should now do the right thing and begin discussions in good faith over how it intends to conduct its business on the Union River in a way that is consistent with its stated mission. We at DSF remain committed to working with this community and Brookfield to repair the harm done to this river. We’ll be here every step of the way.”
In addition to the Downeast Salmon Federation, at Thursday’s BEP meeting representatives from the Friends of Graham Lake, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and the Schoodic River Keepers all spoke in favor of the Board’s decisions to affirm the denial at Thursday’s Board meeting.
More information about DSF's Union River activities can be found here: https://mainesalmonrivers.org/habitat-restoration/union-river/
The Brookfield Renewable ESG 2020 Report can be found here: https://www.brookfield.com/responsibility