The Penobscot River Restoration Trust purchased the Howland Dam in 2010 along with the Veazie Dam (removed in 2013) and the Great Works Dam (removed in 2012). Construction of a fish bypass at the Howland Dam was a key element of the Penobscot River Restoration
Project, which aimed to significantly improve access to nearly 1,000
miles of historic habitat for 11 species of native sea-run fish while
maintaining or increasing energy generation on Maine's Penobscot River
Howland Dam is a run-of-the-river dam on the Piscataquis River, a major tributary which joins the Penobscot in Howland, approximately 32 river-miles from where
the Veazie Dam was removed in 2013 and the head of tide. As the mainstem of the river is opened
up, fish access increases not only in the mainstem, but also into the
many streams and tributaries connected to it. The Piscataquis and
Pleasant rivers offer prime spawning and nursery habitat for Atlantic
salmon and American shad. Successful restoration of self-sustaining runs
of salmon, shad, and other migratory fish using the upper watershed depends on access to this habitat in the headwaters of the Penobscot River system.
The Piscataquis River is now flowing through the bypass past the Howland Dam as initial testing of watering the Howland Bypass channel took place on September 28, 2015. The Bypass is fully operational. An integral task in the construction of the innovative, nature-like, fish bypass channel around the Howland Dam, contractor SumCo Eco-Contracting, which specializes in restoration projects and has constructed similar projects, is gradually letting river water flow into the channel in order to test flows before finalizing construction activities. This important step is enabling the technical team to see how well the channel meets design criteria important for the passage of several species of sea-run fish. It is an exciting moment for the project. Increasing numbers of sea-run fish upstream of the Milford Dam will now have vastly improved passage around the Howland Dam to critically important habitat in the Piscataquis watershed. Below is a photograph taken on-site of water flowing through the channel and the newly constructed bridge which spans it.
The Bypass was largely built on property known to have been the site of the "Old Howland
Tannery." The tannery was used as an industrial paper mill and plywood
factory complex in the late 1800's, and the dam converted to hydropower
in the early 1900's.
The tannery site was abandoned in 1971. The larger property, except
the portion that will become the new bypass, has been cleaned up and is
intended by the Town to become a destination for river-related and
outdoor recreation business development.
The town received funding through the EPA's Brownfields program to clean
up the site, and removed more than 50 tons of contaminated soil. A boat
landing was constructed in 2014.
As part of the future plans for the tannery property, the town used a
Community Enterprise grant to hold a community visioning session, hire a
design engineering firm to draw up plans based on the community vision,
and has redeveloped the site with a trail and sidewalk system with
lights, benches, and other amenities.
Bangor Daily News: Hundreds celebrate completion of Penobscot restoration project - June 14, 2016
Bangor Daily News: Fish bypass construction starts in Howland... - December 25, 2014
Bangor Daily News: Howland tannery site upgrade set for summer - February 15, 2013
Howland Project Summary (FERC No. 2721)
The Howland Project is located on the Piscataquis River
approximately 500 ft upstream of its confluence with the Penobscot River
in Howland, Maine, and is owned by the Penobscot River Restoration
Trust. The project dam consists of a 114.5-ft-long concrete cutoff wall
at the north embankment of the dam, a 6-ft-long non-overflow abutment, a
570–ft-long concrete overflow spillway, an 85-ft-long section
containing a gated spillway section with four 9-by-9-ft steel roller
flood gates and the abandoned fishway facilities, a 20-ft-long
non-overflow section containing the exit of the upstream fishway, and a
76-ft-long forebay entrance deck located immediately upstream of the
powerhouse. The impoundment has a surface area of 270 acres, with a
normal headpond elevation of 148.2 ft (top of flashboards) (BHEC, 1998).
The impoundment is approximately 4.7 miles long and extends from the
dam to the upstream area of Lowell Island (BHEC, 1998).
Hands on Conservation! Check out artwork by Penobscot Valley High School art students in Howland, led by teacher Courtney Robbins and inspired by the Penobscot River Restoration Project.