Historic Settlement Agreement Reached to Remove Saccarappa Dams

Dear Friend of the Presumpscot River,

For 25 years I have worked on behalf of the Presumpscot River. I can truly say that this is among, if not the, most important work that I have done. The Presumpscot is a small river that has been hard used, abused and neglected by mankind for 250 years. I look forward to the day when we will be able to visit with our grand children newly risen rapids and falls. When we will be able to see fish that were forever thought to be vanquished making their way up to historic and revived spawning grounds. That we can talk about the first peoples and show future generations the same sites that they had known. In decades to come this will be our legacy. It is a long haul but .. IT IS HAPPENING.

The year 2016 is coming to a close and for the Presumpscot River this vision is building steam and coming closer than ever! As the headlines proclaimed—what has been years in the making the Saccarappa Dam in Downtown Westbrook will be removed.  This will include fish passage built on this highly visible, complex and scenic site, allowing sea-run fish to migrate over Saccarappa Falls and utilize the longest continuous stretch of spawning habitat on the Presumpscot. Picture millions of baby river herring and American shad swimming to Casco Bay then returning to their home river as adults, which will fuel our economy, feed local wildlife and increase the biodiversity of the river and its tributaries. 

After three years of hard fought negotiations with SAPPI, the settlement moves us to a solution that will benefit the river for generations to come. Without our intervention and steadfast resolve, this decision never would have been reached. The agreement was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on November 15, 2016. This settlement was developed, negotiated, and advocated for in a very challenging political climate for environmental efforts in Maine and with SAPPI having very powerful economic interests and capacities. While having its compromises, it is an agreement that will make a huge positive impact on the river for decades, and centuries, to come.

The hundreds of hours involved in negotiating, drafting, and engaging scientific experts has been far longer and more intense than we expected. Even with much pro-bono legal work by Ron Kriesmanthere is a great need for additional funds, AND we still need to doggedly see this through to completion in order to fend off changes and make sure implementation is done well. To do this YOUR SUPPORT IS CRITICAL!

Beyond all the effort of this agreement, FOPR has also been involved in building a strong public outreach effort to create public support, through greater connection to, and understanding of, the river and its issues.  To do this we hired Jennifer Cook to lead our communications efforts. This year we were involved in the following:

  • Monthly summer lecture series including: The Ecology and Physiology of the Anadromous Fish with Theo Willis and Ciaran Shaughnessy; The Economic and Environmental Benefits of River Restoration with Dwayne Shaw, Rachel Bouvier, and Ted Ames; The Abenaki of the Presumpscot with Lisa Brooks; and Penobscot Connections to Place by James Francis.
  • A film presentation of Return of the River documenting the removal of the Elwha River Dam, followed by a conversation with filmmaker Jessica Plumb. 
  • Enhanced social media outreach including several soon to be released short videos produced by the Knack Factory, highlighting community members’ engagement with the river.                   
  • Historical research outlining the impacts, both human and industry, at Saccarappa   Falls, conducted by Darian Brahms, USM student and historical scholar.
  •  Historical and ecological tours of sites along the Presumpscot River. 
  • Participation during World Fish Migration Day.
  • Public river floats including a festive picnic and float for the youth from the Brown Street area, many of whom where immigrants and had never been in or on the river.

All of us have reason to celebrate and be very proud of the work we have accomplished together. We could not have done it without our supporters, both individuals and foundations. We want to offer a great deal of gratitude for sticking with us over the years!

However … OUR WORK IS FAR FROM DONE. Efforts will include:

  • Much ongoing need for vigilance in monitoring the work at Saccarappa, demanding a great deal of legal and strategic efforts. 
  • Making sure Cumberland Mills is effectively passing fish.
  • Engaging, educating, and building community around, and for, the river.
  •  Preparing for the rebuilding of our migratory fish stocks.
  •  Preserving the natural character of the river and enhancing recreational access and opportunities.

It is still a long march up the river involving continued legal, scientific and advocacy efforts.

Your help is critical to our advancing this nearly 25-year citizen effort to restore the Presumpscot River. We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go. This is work for generations to come.


Please donate generously. You can do so in the following ways:

by mail at F.O.P.R. , P.O. Box 1474Westbrook, Maine 04098;

through our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PresumpscotRiver/; or

through our website at http://www.presumpscotriver.org.


Thank you for your support.


Michael Shaughnessy,

President - Friends of the Presumpscot River


A few quotes by Friends of the Friends ...... 

“Friends of the Presumpscot River and partners have led an inspiring and tremendously important effort to improve the health of the Presumpscot River. Their dedication, for nearly 25 years, has been impressive. But the work is not done. We are writing to share our support for their continued focus during the current critical phase of work. Their efforts on the Presumpscot have served as a model for other restoration efforts in Maine. Friends of the Presumpscot have been generous in sharing their experiences with other watershed groups and municipalities seeking to improve their rivers. A success for the Presumpscot would elevate and lead other river restoration projects forward.”  

            – Landis Hudson, Executive Director, Maine Rivers.

“Please accept my sincere thank you for all of your efforts to make it (The Paddle and Grill Day at Brown Street) happen, I am smiling now just remembering lollipops and popsicles, the comments and moments, the feeling that we all belong to, and we all get to enjoy our beautiful river.”               

            – Brittney Sampson, Community Coordinator Community and Parents Protecting Children. (CPPC)

(From a letter in response to our organizing of the Brown Street Community Float.)