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April 5, 2018

Hancock County residents protest Brookfield’s dam operations

Brookfield Renewable Energy Group's operation of the Union River Dam is drawing fire from Ellsworth residents and conservationists.

Residents and conservation groups said dropped water levels in lakes along the river are affecting native fish, Maine Public reported.

Brookfield is in the process of renewing its license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to operate its power plant for another 30 years. The current license allows the company to draw down water levels at Graham Lake by nearly 11 feet.

"The pregnant three-foot eels trying to come back through the dam, trying to go through a turbine, it's terrible mess down there, it's slice and dice," said Ed Damm of Bar Harbor, who owns a camp on Graham Lake, where water is stored and released by a dam to power the turbines of the Union River Dam, four miles downriver.

Brett Ciccotelli, a fisheries specialist with Downeast Salmon Federation in Columbia Falls, said the licensing process is a chance to resolve obstacles preventing sea run fish from getting into the river. The Ellsworth City Council voted Monday to apply for intervenor status in the FERC dam applications.

A Brookfield statement said the company will balance regulatory requirements, environmental impact and obligations to stakeholders.

Brookfield acquired the Union River dam in 2013 along with eight other dams in Maine.

As of 2017, Brookfield Renewable Power (NYSE: BEP), headquartered in Toronto, owned more than 215 hydroelectric dams worldwide, including 38 in Maine. Brookfield operates in 30 countries, and oversees renewable energy including wind, hydro, pumped storage and biomass. It also oversees real estate, infrastructure and private equity investments, with $250 billion under management and 70,000 operating employees.

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