Rangeley Lakes, Maine - Trout Unlimited joined several conservation groups, state and federal agencies, Maine Governor Angus King and others in celebrating a final settlement governing the operation of dams on the Rapid and Androscoggin Rivers in Maine^s Rangeley Lakes region. For the first time, federal licenses for the dams, which are owned and operated by Florida Power and Light, are being considered, and environmental and recreation groups including TU have applied pressure to improve river conditions for the area^s fish and wildlife.
"The improved flows and river-corridor protections in this agreement improve the outlook for the Rapid River^s brook trout substantially," said Jeff Reardon, chairman of Trout Unlimited^s Maine Council. "The Rapid^s minimum flow is nearly doubled, and we look forward to working to protect and improve access to spawning habitat for these world-class fish."
The agreement celebrated today was signed in January of this year. Under the agreement, both shores of the Rapid will be protected from nearly all future development. In addition to the substantially increased minimum flows, substantial funding has been committed for fisheries habitat restoration work in the Upper Androscoggin watershed.
"Another important element of the agreement is that its flow improvements have already been implemented by Florida Power and Light, so fish in the watershed are already receiving benefits from it," said Mona Janopaul, Trout Unlimited^s lead attorney on the settlement negotiations. "In our experience, it is rare yet very beneficial for a dam owner to implement settlement agreement provisions prior to receiving its operating license from the federal government," said Janopaul.
The Rangeley Lakes area, and the river reaches that connect it to the upper Androscoggin River watershed, have been popular angling destinations since the mid-19th century. The Lakes and the Rapid and Androscoggin Rivers once yielded brook trout in excess of ten pounds, but fluctuating water levels imposed by the hydroelectric dams on the system, along with ecological changes following the introduction of landlocked salmon, have limited the fishery^s health in recent years. The Rapid River still produces large, native brook trout, and today^s settlement will improve flow conditions and facilitate the protection and restoration of more fisheries habitat in the watershed.
Founded in 1959 in Grayling, Michigan, Trout Unlimited is America^s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU^s 100,000 members in nearly 500 chapters nationwide are dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of North America^s trout and salmon and their watersheds.