Written some time ago this presentation examined all of the many positive reasons for maintaining this facility. These reasons have been totally ignored. One must assume that nuclear remains the primary thrust for NBPower.

The St. Croix River and its estuary has a long history of heavy commercial use, the impacts of which can still be observed in the waters and sediments of the watershed, including western Passamaquoddy Bay. Additionally, the marine and freshwater flora and fauna has been diminished significantly and for many decades anadromous fish species, in particular, have had restricted access to their up-river spawning areas.

In the 1960s, the Woodland mill dumped black liquor directly into the river for nearly 10 years causing the virtual death of the river. Since this practice was brought to an end, the river has gradually improved, but current industrial and domestic pollution continue to impact this valuable ecosystem and up-river dams continue to restrict fish passage.


While NB Power’s proposed removal of the dam at Milltown may have a therapeutic effect that will appeal to some interested parties, there are legitimate arguments for examining the environmental and economic potential of upgrading and retaining the dam versus removal.

In what appears to be a rush to remove the Milltown dam, NB Power has publicly indicated that the costs for upgrading the dam outweigh the economic returns from such a facility. Is that really true? In the absence of any opportunity to analyze real options for this facility, there really is no answer and this is why the process needs to be slowed down so as to assess the available options.

Milltown Dam


Release of Pollutants: As alluded to above, the sediments of the river and estuary are well known to contain highly toxic elements that negatively impact aquatic organisms, as well as humans. The head pond will be a concern in this regard if the water there is rapidly drawn down without any remedial plans. Toxic elements will be released with downstream impacts; the extent of which is hard to estimate but should not be ignored.

If the dam is removed, it is clear that water release should be over an extended period so as to reduce down-stream impacts. Since stream flow is regulated upstream, downstream scouring out of other toxic elements may also occur over an extended period.

It is clear that the contents of the sediments of the watershed will not magically disappear and as a wise ecologist suggested: “If you have toxic elements in your sediments, don’t stir the pot!”

Action: In addition to existing studies, a current study is required to determine the composition of sediments in the head pond and up river to Woodland. Based on these results, actions for treatment, removal or release should be considered by the appropriate authorities.

Dam Removal and Anadromous Species: Generally speaking, dam removal is considered to have beneficial impacts on fish migration and indeed there are many instances of this being true. However, original waterfalls are not necessarily better than fishways and this may be the case at Salmon Falls. It is possible that fish passage may be reduced to highwater spring tides and this needs to be considered. Even some proponents of dam removal have suggested that a new fishway may be required.

Action: A study is required to determine the physical structure of Salmon Falls after the dam is removed. Fishway requirements should be determined by the results of this study.

Community Impacts: Pollution of the St. Croix River is known to have had impacts on property, property values, property upkeep, tourism, aquatic industries, and human health. Based on the toxicity of the sediment elements, will the removal of the dam have similar impacts?


Salmon Falls has an important history. Originally an important and sacred site of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and as the oldest power operation in Canada, it is seen by many as a historical asset that should be preserved and promoted.

Action: Analyze whether or not the historical significance of Salmon could be promoted to the economic benefit of the community.


Once an economic powerhouse, St. Stephen, Calais and the two Milltowns continue to see their industries disappear and business costs rise. Among the most serious liabilities is the cost of electric power. If the dam, fishway, and power generation system can be upgraded with modern technology and redesign, could the increased power output be used to make these towns attractive to business once more?

At the moment, no answer has been provided. But this possibility speaks to the absolute necessity of slowing down this process and immediately initiating a public consideration of alternatives that could benefit both the river ecosystem and the residents of these communities.

If there is opportunity, serious consideration should be given to ‘responsible refurbishment’, planned and executed by a green energy developer in consultation with environmental, community, and business stakeholders, as it may produce the best results for the St. Croix watershed and it’s communities.

A.A. MacKay


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