01 Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry


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There are currently 27 FERC licensed generating facilities and storage dams on the Kennebec and tributaries; of these, ten have licenses set to expire in 1993 (see Table 1) while three have had licenses renewed. All ten have initiated the relicensing process and were required to submit applications for relicensing to FERC by December 31, 1991.

Table 1
Dams in the Kennebec River Basin Subject to Relicensing;

All Licenses set to Expire in 1993




Installed Capacity

in MW



Edwards Manufacturing Co.


Union Gas


Central Maine Power Company


Fort Halifax


Central Maine Power Company




Central Maine Power Company


Rice Rips


Central Maine Power Company




Central Maine Power Company




Central Maine Power Company




Central Maine Power Company


Moosehead Lake

(East Outlet)


Kennebec Water Power Company




Central Maine Power Company


Union Gas, Oakland, Rice Rips and Automatic have been consolidated into one application which is now entitled the Messalonskee Project.
*Applicant is also requesting an 8.2 MW expansion.
Table 2
Hydropower Licenses Reissued Prior to 1989







United American Hydro

Relicensed 10/15/86 for 50 years; 13.8 MW expansion for total of 17.5 MW



Central Maine Power Co.

Relicensed 1/5/81 for 40 years; 4.0 MW expansion for total capacity of 8.6 MW



Central Maine Power Co.

Relicensed 1/22/88 for 30 years at 14.5 MW of capacity

The basin's physical characteristics, the distribution of its natural resources, and establishment of Maine's capital at Augusta on the lower main stem have had considerable impact on cultural development. The following sections trace the history of development in the Kennebec basin and summarize its present demographic and economic environment.
Before the influx of European settlers to New England, the basin was inhabited by the Abenaki Indians who controlled the entire Kennebec River. They named the waterway for its twisted course through Merrymeeting Bay to the ocean; purportedly the name means either "snakey monster" or "long quiet water".
English colonization began in the 1600's along the lower Kennebec River. Popham colony was established in 1606. Although Plymouth Colony was the first lasting European settlement in the northeast, Popham Colony predated it.
In April of 1606, King James granted a charter for the permanent settlement of the east coast of America. An expedition launched in May of the same year and lead by Sir John Popham, was concerned mainly with trading rather than settlement prospects. The expedition consisted of two ships and 120 passengers and made land fall in August.
Based on the explorations of the previous year, it had been decided before leaving England that the colonists should proceed directly to the Kennebec River. It had been chosen for its size and central location to facilitate a vigorous trade in furs with the native inhabitants. It is believed that by the end of the year, both of the original ships had departed the New World, leaving behind only 45 colonists in the village.
The colony survived until 1608 when the governor was recalled to England. Without a leader to govern the enterprise, the colony was abandoned.
The Indians and early settlers depended on the Kennebec River for transportation and commerce. Small craft, often bearing furs or fish, could navigate as far upstream as Solon. Plentiful stocks of spruce and pine provided the raw materials for home and ship construction, and fertile land sustained agriculture. Tributaries, rather than the river itself, were used for water power; early settlers' crude saws and grist mills could not withstand the Kennebec's swift current.
As a transportation and communication corridor, the river gained strategic significance during the French and Indian wars and the American Revolution when forts were built at Augusta and Waterville. In particular, Benedict Arnold journeyed up the river on the way to attacking Quebec.
After the Revolution, industry grew and riverine settlement rapidly increased, spreading northward along the main stem and branching out along the southern tributaries. Commercial shipyards were built along the river from Gardiner to Waterville. Dams constructed on the lower Kennebec main stem and some of its tributaries accommodated log drivers and supplied power to the basin's timber and textile industries. The needs of these industries soon took precedence over other riverine uses. In 1837, a dam was built at Augusta, despite the fact that the structure blocked navigation and anadromous fish runs upstream of the city.
During the 1820's, large lumber and logging associations replaced individual and partnership operations, and by 1930 the Kennebec Log Driving Association controlled all log driving on the river. This private association maintained control until 1976 when the Maine Legislature halted log driving throughout the State.
The trend toward consolidating ownership of the basin's timber resources was prompted in part by the emergence of new land ownership patterns. When Maine separated from Massachusetts, becoming a state in 1820, the two states shared millions of acres of land in northern Maine. The State of Maine divided the land into townships (usually 36 square miles each). Retaining 1,000 acres of each parcel, the State then sold the remaining land for needed revenue. The buyers, in an effort to minimize economic risks, established a system of "common ownership and undivided interest;" they would buy a township and distribute all profits and losses from the land in proportion to each owner's share. An outgrowth of this system was the formation of land management companies where groups of landowners formed corporations or delegated to one of the owners all responsibility for managing the land.
The northern half of the Kennebec basin is comprised primarily of unorganized territory.1 Because of the harsh climate and rugged terrain of this remote area, it remained virtually unsettled and undeveloped. However, land sales in the mid 1800's prompted new interest in harvesting this area's extensive spruce-fir forests and boosted the basin's lumber industry.
In the mid 1800's when wood-pulp began to replace rag fibers as the prime material in paper, demand for the northern basin's timber increased again. Fir, previously unimportant, joined spruce and pine as a valuable commodity. Pulp and paper companies began to acquire large tracts of the basin's unorganized territory, and by the late 1800s pulp and paper manufacturing surpassed the lumber industry in economic importance.
During the 19th century, the present-day character of the basin was established. Industrial development and the siting of the state capitol at Augusta brought people to the towns and cities clustered along the southern waterways. Good agricultural land in the lower basin provided both subsistence and commercial enterprise. Abundant surface water offered the basin's residents recreation opportunities, and in the late 1800's resort development around some of the southern lakes drew vacationers from all over New England. Dam construction continued to satisfy increasing power demands and facilitate log drives from the north. Because forest products companies owned large parcels of land in the upper basin, development in this area was minimal. Furthermore, when the anticipated migration of settlers to the 1,000-acre public parcels did not occur, Maine sold the timber rights of these lands for state revenue.
Today, the lower Kennebec River bisects the basin's only urbanized area. Industrial activity is located predominantly in the south, and pulp and paper manufacturing remains the mainstay of the basin's economy. Agriculture, while not a major land use in the basin, still holds an important place in the southern rural economy. Recreational development continues along the shoreline of many southern lakes, especially in the Belgrade and Cobbossee Lake drainages. The river provides excellent spawning and nursery habitat for Landlocked salmon and brook trout, and supports a popular, high quality sport fishery.
The upper basin, while remaining the raw materials base for the forest products industries, has evolved into a popular recreational area. Improved logging roads provide greater access to the scenic north country which draws tourists year-round. In recent years, Maine has begun a movement to recover use of its northern public land and, through a series of land trades with private owners, is consolidating this land into state holdings (Figure 1).
The most recent land trade was approved by the Maine Legislature in April 1990. In a trade with Scott Paper, the Bureau of Public Lands (BPL) acquired 7,275 acres of Days Academy Grant and 17.8 shoreline miles on Moosehead Lake. A conservation easement 500' deep covers 9.5 miles of the total shoreline and includes the opportunity to develop one wilderness campsite per mile of shore. BPL also gained acreage that was added to the agency's holdings in Big Squaw Township and Bald Mountain.
The State has also undertaken conservation land acquisition through bond issues: the $5 million 1986 bond for wildlife habitat protection administered by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) and the 1987 $35 million Land for Maine's Future (LMF) Fund. Several acquisitions have been made through both programs in the Kennebec River basin and a map showing all public lands in the watershed follows on page 7.
In May 1989, 800 acres of Mount Kineo were acquired by using $750,000 of the LMF Fund. Mount Kineo is the dominant land feature on Moosehead Lake, offering spectacular views from its summit. The mount's sheer cliffs serve as nesting habitat for a pair of peregrine falcons.
In November 1989, IF&W acquired a corridor of 500 feet on each side of the Roach River, a primary Moosehead Lake tributary, for $950,000. The mouth of the shallow river is exemplary spawning habitat for land-locked salmon and brook trout, offering world-class catch-and-release fishing. The corridor acquisition includes 250 feet in fee and a second 250 feet structured as a conservation easement on each side of the main stem.
The IF&W bond was also the source of funding for a 670 acre addition to the Sebasticook River Wildlife Management Area, increasing it to over 1,600 acres. Much of this land, along the floodplain of the main stem of the Sebasticook, is forested with mature cedar and is heavily used by deer. The area also supports populations of waterfowl and furbearers.
Figure 1
Kennebec River Basin with Public Lands

The Army Corps of Engineers has a long history of involvement with the Kennebec River dating back to 1827. Initial improvements of the river continued through 1888. These included removing obstructions, such as ledge rock, to provide a 13-foot-deep channel from river mouth to Swan Island in Richmond, about 25 miles upstream, with its depth decreasing to 10 feet at Augusta. A secondary channel was constructed around the west side of Swan Island. In 1898, three jetties were constructed on the west side of Swan Island and one at Beef Rock Shoals, at the southeast end of Swan Island.
Additional projects by the Corps were completed in 1943 and consist of:
• A channel 27 feet deep and 150 feet wide extending from the river mouth to a point 13 miles upstream at Bath.
• A channel 17 feet deep and 150 feet wide along the east side of Swan Island and extending to Gardiner. The channel depth increases to 18 feet through rock at Lovejoy Narrows, at the northeastern corner of Swan Island.
• A training wall at Beef Rock Shoals, at the southeast corner of Swan Island.
• A training wall above Sands Island, near the Dresden/Pittston town line.
• A 16-foot-deep channel at Gardiner.
• A channel 11 feet deep and 150 feet wide to the head of navigation in Augusta.2

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