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Maine Democrats break with governor in fight over dam

August 26, 2021 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Members of the Maine Legislature have proposed a bill to block Gov. Janet Mills’ administration from enforcing regulations that they say threaten to shutdown a key dam on the Kennebec River and a local mill nearby.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, proposed legislation to establish “reasonable standards” for permitting and operation of dams and clarify the Legislature’s role in water quality rulemaking, The Bangor Daily News reported, citing a news release.

The bill targets the Department of Environmental Protection’s pending decision to deny a water quality certification for the Shawmut Dam in Fairfield, the newspaper said. The state had cited an insufficient ability for the endangered Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fish to pass through the dam, which is currently in the relicensing process through a federal energy regulator. The water quality certification is vital for the dam to become federally relicensed.

Sappi North America, the Skowhegan mill’s owner, said that the mill relies on the dam, and the denial could lead to the dam’s removal, which would lead to the mill’s closure.

Mills said on Thursday that she would not allow the mill to close because of its vital importance to Skowhegan.