Charlie Spies: Relicensing of Lower Androscoggin Dams
Over the next seven years, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will consider relicensing three major dams on the Lower Androscoggin River between Lisbon and Brunswick. These dams are the closest barriers to the ocean and the first encountered by anadromous fish. Understanding their current impacts and any changes to improve fish passage will impact virtually every element of the Lower Androscoggin’s ecology, including the reproductive success and survival of Atlantic Salmon, Shad, Alewives, Blueback Herring, eels, and others. Dam relicensing occurs once every 30 to 50 years and sets the bar for fish passage for another 30 to 50 years. Getting it right is a once in a generation opportunity.
Charlie Spies is member of MMBTU, and a UMaine forestry and forest entomology graduate who has lived in the Midcoast area for the last 40 years. He currently resides on Water Street in Brunswick which is just below head of tide on the Andro where the first major dam is located. He has been doing volunteer water quality sampling on the river and more recently learned about the pending relicensing of the Worumbo, Pejepscot and Brunswick dams. His lifelong interest in ecology, fly-fishing, and the amazing life of rivers in general has led him to begin to work with Steve Heinz, who tracks dam relicensing statewide for the Maine Council of TU. Charlie is learning from Steve and others about this complex process with a focus on the three lower Andro dams and how relicensing can impact anadromous fish passage by promoting advances in technology that have occurred since the last relicensing in the 1980s.
At our January meeting, he will share what he is learning about the FERC licensing process, current dam impacts on fish passage and on ways improvements can be made as licensing proceeds. He will be reporting regularly to MMBTU as the licensing progresses. He views his role as one who “represents the fish” while considering hydropower production, and the many environmental and economic impacts linked to all three of these dams.