Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Real Eel Life Intrudes

I am joined to the mental hip and cerebellum with American eels. I am no smarter than they. This is especially demonstrated by my continued inability to keep them from being killed and mutilated at hydroelectric dams that rip the skin off these pregnant mothers like a gym sock and then leave them on the river bottom to slowly die. I want to live in a Disney, NBC, NPR, Garrison Keillor fantasy world, but I can't. I am a female, pregnant, 50 year old American eel. I am getting tired of being killed and tortured and mutilated and left to die in the river below the bridge where you drive your car, in pain, and all alone.

Friends of Sebago Lake Catches
Maine DEP Commissioner Illegally Amending
Five Presumpscot River Hydro Dam Licenses.

Contact: Douglas H. Watts (207) 622-1003;
Roger Wheeler (207) 935-2994;

SEBAGO LAKE, MAINE -- On Thursday, Nov. 20, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection ruled that the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection violated Maine law by amending five state hydroelectric dam licenses without telling the public.

"The Department's decision has no legal basis and must be reversed," wrote the Maine BEP in its two page order, which relied on legal counsel from the Maine Department of Attorney General.

The Maine BEP is an independent, citizen board which reviews the legality of decisions made by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. On August 28, 2008 Friends of Sebago Lake appealed the DEP Commissioner’s decision.

Friends of Sebago Lake appealed a July 29, 2008 Order by Maine DEP Commissioner David Littell which amended the licenses for five hydroelectric dams on the Presumpscot River, the outlet of Sebago Lake. The dams are owned by the South African Pulp and Paper Company (SAPPI).

The license amendments removed requirements that SAPPI conduct scientific studies to ensure its hydroelectric dams are not killing and mutilating fish in the turbines of its dams on the Presumpscot River between Sebago Lake and Casco Bay. SAPPI was required to have completed the studies in the fall of 2006, but has refused to do so.

Instead of ordering SAPPI to comply with their license requirements at the five dams, on July 29, 2008 the Maine DEP Commissioner abolished the license requirements that SAPPI has been violating for the past five years.

The 9-member Maine BEP unanimously ruled that the Maine DEP Commissioner broke Maine law because he amended the five licenses even though SAPPI never filed any applications to amend the licenses and never paid its mandatory application fees. The Board wrote: "Because no application for modification had been filed, the Department had no authority to modify the certification."

Under Maine and federal law, owners of hydroelectric dams must file an application to amend their state and federal dam licenses. These applications trigger a mandatory public notice process and opportunity for the public to comment on any proposed change in license. Federal and state licenses for hydro dams have terms of 30 to 50 years.

In this case, the Commissioner Littell abolished critical sections of the state licenses for five of SAPPI's Presumpscot River Dams without any public notice or opportunity for public comment. Friends of Sebago Lake found about these secret changes by accident and only 24 hours before the appeals deadline was set to expire.

"This rebuke makes us wonder if David Littell knew what he was signing," said Roger Wheeler, president of Friends of Sebago Lake. "To amend a DEP license you have to file an application and pay the application fee. Everyone in Maine who owns a shorefront camp knows this. Here, the DEP Commissioner re-wrote five 40-year dam licenses for a multi-billion dollar corporation and did not ask them to fill out an application or pay the $127 permit fee."

At the Nov. 20, 2008 Maine BEP meeting in Augusta, Dana Murch, the Maine DEP staff member who wrote the order, told the Board, "No good deed goes unpunished. If I’m guilty of anything, it is of trying to be efficient.”


All background info and documents at

BEP Order at:

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