In what it called a "ground breaking" deal, PPL Corp., Allentown, Pa., has agreed with a coalition of government agencies and private groups to remove or close down three hydroelectric plants totaling 18 Mw on the Penobscot River north of Bangor, Maine.

In return, the coalition will support relicensing six existing PPL dams farther upstream totaling 27 Mw as well as a PPL plan to add more capacity at the six dams to recover up to a 90% of the lost generating capacity downstream.

PPL officials said in a first phase they would install flash boards to increase water levels at the six dams to provide more power. But eventually they may take turbines and other equipment from the three deactivated dams for use at the other sites.

They did not say how much the improvements would cost and said decisions to proceed with particular projects would depend on future market conditions.


In announcing the agreement Oct. 6, PPL said the government and private groups will have the option to acquire the Veazie, Great Works and Howland dams during five years at a total price of about $25 million.

The groups plan to remove only the Veazie and Great Works dams. The Howland Dam, which is farthest upriver, will be deactivated to allow a fish bypass. The environmental groups estimated about 500 miles of river habitat will be open for ocean fish in the Penobscot and adjoining streams allowing Atlantic salmon runs to return to the river.

PPL will continue to own and operate the dams until they are sold. The parties to the agreement will file a detailed proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The five-year option period to buy the dams will start once FERC approves the deal, possibly in 2004.

PPL had purchased the assets from Bangor Hydro Electric in a divestiture sale in 1999 and sells the power from the plants into the new England Power Pool.

The deal was supported by several federal and Maine state agencies, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Penobscot Nation and several private fish protection groups.