Fishing and Rafting the Gorge
Major issues downstream of the Indian Pond Project are chiefly recreational in nature. The two most important aspects of downstream management, especially between Harris and Wyman, relate to fishing and the whitewater rafting industry. Another ever-present concern is flood control, and the maintenance of specific flows through the Skowhegan dam to meet power supply needs. Harris Station is currently operated remotely and flows are regulated, along with those at Wyman, to meet requirements when there is not a specific fish or whitewater flow guaranteed. The environmental assessment associated with the relicensing procedure provides for a minimum flow of 300 cfs, and for fish flows and whitewater flows to be maintained during specific times throughout the summer and fall months. These flow regulations were put into place in order to satisfy the fisheries and recreational interests in the Upper Kennebec Gorge.
Fisheries habitat is a key focus of the management plans associated with the dam, and several procedures are in place to improve the area around the hydropower project. There are many provisions in the license to implement fisheries management, and there is even a fund dedicated to habitat restoration in Indian Pond and the tributaries of the upper Kennebec. The focus of fisheries management has been on non-migratory fish because the project is located upstream of natural barriers to most anadramous fish. Another stipulation is FPL's commitment to establish a conservation easement on 1,300 acres of their land surrounding Indian Pond.
Recreational use and access, especially to the whitewater industry and private boaters, is a crucial consideration in the management of Harris Station. Services provided to the whitewater industry include FPL's maintenance of put-in facilities at Harris and at Carry Brook, where they maintain the road and river access stairway. During the negotiations of the relicensing, commercial whitewater access fees were decreased from $6 to $3 per person. The EA also specifies that FPL must continue to meet with interested parties for the scheduling of whitewater and fishing releases. FPL does maintain an excellent rapport with most of the whitewater companies in The Forks as they work together to make improvements and achieve their goals.
A map of the Kennebec River gorge's rapids, and a raft running Magic Falls Rapid.
From a water quality perspective, the waters surrounding Harris are fairly unspoiled. Based on the State's classification schemes, the water from the station to a point 1,000 feet downstream is Class A and the water from 1,000 feet below the dam to the confluence with the Dead River is Class AA. Water quality classifications are based on a number of factors, including intended uses of the waterway. Water chemistry and benthic macroinvertebrate studies are used to monitor water quality throughout Maine.
The Forks and Wyman Lake
Once the gorge opens up at the confluence with Carry Brook, the Kennebec River continues its journey downhill through the small town of The Forks. With a year-round population of only 40-some people, The Forks population swells dramatically in the summer with river guides, fishermen, and guests. Whitewater outfitters and fishermen rely on the regulated flows supplied by Harris for recreational activities.
The Dead River
The Kennebec is not the only river used by whitewater outfitters and fishermen based in The Forks, the Dead River is also a popular destination. Many of the tributary streams and ponds in the area are also extremely popular fishing destinations. The Dead River originates in Flagstaff Lake, which is located in the town of Eustis, Maine. There is another dam at the outlet of Flagstaff, also currently owned by FPL. Although the water quality at and above Harris is excellent, Flagstaff has had some issues with water quality. There has been disagreement between FPL and state regulators about what baseline data should be used to assess water quality in Flagstaff. Water quality concerns in the area still have not been entirely settled. The Dead River joins the Kennebec just below the Route 201 bridge in The Forks.
Map of the Dead River's whitewater rapids.
Further south along Route 201, which follows the Kennebec, lie the towns of Caratunk, Moscow, and Bingham. Wyman Lake backs up to the fast-flowing section of the Kennebec in Caratunk. The entire area's economy is built on recreation and timbering. Bingham and Moscow are neighboring towns which are the site of the Wyman Dam and Wyman Lake. The dam was built in the late 1920s, and the first generator came on-line in December of 1930. Wyman has a capacity of 72 megawatts, which is slightly smaller than Harris. The impoundment, Wyman Lake, is much larger than Indian Pond and supports more recreational use than Indian Pond. There is much easier access to boat ramps for Wyman, and the lake stretches along Route 201 which provides added convenience. Take a look at the removal of the Edwards Dam further south on the Kennebec in Augusta.
The shoreline of Wyman Lake in Moscow.
Back to the main Harris page.
The history of Harris Station.
Upstream to Indian Pond and Moosehead Lake.
The relicensing of Harris Station.
What does the future hold for Harris?