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Penobscot Nation moves forward with river restoration project

VERONA, N.Y. ñ The Penobscot Indian Nation is moving closer to welcoming back the salmon to their community.

John Banks, Penobscot and director of natural resources for the nation, presented the Penobscot River restoration project to United South and Eastern Tribes Inc. board members at the 2006 semi-annual board of directors meeting, held recently at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona.

The project will potentially bring 11 species of fish back to the Penobscot reservation in Maine, he said.

ìThe Penobscot people have been here for thousands of years,î Banks said. ìAnd for thousands of years we have relied on this river.î

For years the Penobscot Nation has fought to increase the number of fish that make it to their homelands each year, but the several dams that were built on the river have prohibited the migration of fish. In 2004, an agreement was signed between the federal government, the Penobscot Nation and the damsí owner, PPL Corp., to help find a solution.

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust signed the Lower Penobscot River Multi-Party Settlement Agreement, which is a collaborative effort to restore the Penobscot River. The trust has the option to purchase three dams from PPL Corp. Banks said the purchase must be made within five years and will cost approximately $25 million.

ìWe are about a third of the way through,î Banks said. ìWe have raised $8 million and Iím here today to ask the tribes for help.î

The nonprofit group collaborating with the Penobscot Nation has received $4.5 million in private donations. Federal sources have budgeted $3.5 million to the project.

The project plans to remove the two most seaward dams, Veazie and Great Works, and build a fish bypass around a third dam, Howland.

ìThis would have a great impact on our community,î Banks said. ìThe fish leaving our nation affected our people greatly; from cultural practices to nutrition. Also, there a lot of tribe members who would love to be able to harvest these fish.î

Banks said that historically there were between 75,000 and 100,000 salmon in the Penobscot River near the nation. Today, Banks said, there are less than 1,500 salmon in those waters. The removal of the dams and the creation of the bypass would potentially increase the number of salmon to more than 10,000. Even more drastic, the number of shad, which is currently near zero, would increase to 1.5 million with the project.

Banks, who represented the Penobscot Nation, read statements by members of the nation and their memories of the river.

ìMy grandfather used to tell us of the time when the river would literally boil from bank to bank as the numbers of salmon were so great in running the Penobscot each spring,î according to a statement from Jim Sappier, a chief of the Penobscot Nation.

Jerry Pardilla, Penobscot, said in another statement that the Penobscot River is the backbone of the nation.

ìOur name is derived from the description of the land here in this region. And the river that flows through it bears our name; or we bear its name. And so then we would call ourselves Pana wampskik, [meaning] ëWe are people of that place.íî

In effort to raise more money for the project, Banks urged members of USET to consider contributing to the effort.

ìThe Choctaws are the first tribe to have generously stepped forward with an initial commitment toward river restoration,î Banks said. ìWe feel this is a tremendous victory and we are proud of their involvement as donors to this effort. Now leadership from other tribes is critically important as it will help us to build upon this initial success by growing the Choctawís gift to a higher level and it will open doors to even more tribes in the future.î

For more information on the project or to donate, visit www.penobscotriver.org.

VERONA, N.Y. ñ The Penobscot Indian Nation is moving closer to welcoming back the salmon to their community.John Banks, Penobscot and director of natural resources for the nation, presented the Penobscot River restoration project to United South and Eastern Tribes Inc. board members at the 2006 semi-annual board of directors meeting, held recently at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona.The project will potentially bring 11 species of fish back to the Penobscot reservation in Maine, he said.ìThe Penobscot people have been here for thousands of years,î Banks said. ìAnd for thousands of years we have relied on this river.îFor years the Penobscot Nation has fought to increase the number of fish that make it to their homelands each year, but the several dams that were built on the river have prohibited the migration of fish. In 2004, an agreement was signed between the federal government, the Penobscot Nation and the damsí owner, PPL Corp., to help find a solution. The Penobscot River Restoration Trust signed the Lower Penobscot River Multi-Party Settlement Agreement, which is a collaborative effort to restore the Penobscot River. The trust has the option to purchase three dams from PPL Corp. Banks said the purchase must be made within five years and will cost approximately $25 million.ìWe are about a third of the way through,î Banks said. ìWe have raised $8 million and Iím here today to ask the tribes for help.îThe nonprofit group collaborating with the Penobscot Nation has received $4.5 million in private donations. Federal sources have budgeted $3.5 million to the project.The project plans to remove the two most seaward dams, Veazie and Great Works, and build a fish bypass around a third dam, Howland.ìThis would have a great impact on our community,î Banks said. ìThe fish leaving our nation affected our people greatly; from cultural practices to nutrition. Also, there a lot of tribe members who would love to be able to harvest these fish.îBanks said that historically there were between 75,000 and 100,000 salmon in the Penobscot River near the nation. Today, Banks said, there are less than 1,500 salmon in those waters. The removal of the dams and the creation of the bypass would potentially increase the number of salmon to more than 10,000. Even more drastic, the number of shad, which is currently near zero, would increase to 1.5 million with the project.Banks, who represented the Penobscot Nation, read statements by members of the nation and their memories of the river.ìMy grandfather used to tell us of the time when the river would literally boil from bank to bank as the numbers of salmon were so great in running the Penobscot each spring,î according to a statement from Jim Sappier, a chief of the Penobscot Nation.Jerry Pardilla, Penobscot, said in another statement that the Penobscot River is the backbone of the nation.ìOur name is derived from the description of the land here in this region. And the river that flows through it bears our name; or we bear its name. And so then we would call ourselves Pana wampskik, [meaning] ëWe are people of that place.íî In effort to raise more money for the project, Banks urged members of USET to consider contributing to the effort.ìThe Choctaws are the first tribe to have generously stepped forward with an initial commitment toward river restoration,î Banks said. ìWe feel this is a tremendous victory and we are proud of their involvement as donors to this effort. Now leadership from other tribes is critically important as it will help us to build upon this initial success by growing the Choctawís gift to a higher level and it will open doors to even more tribes in the future.îFor more information on the project or to donate, visit www.penobscotriver.org.