For two years, FPL Energy, the owner of the 50m high Harris dam on the Kennebec river, along with other interested parties, has been trying to hammer out an agreement for a new operating licence.

FPL Energy filed an application for a new licence with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in late 1999: the current licence for the hydro power station and the dam expires at the end of this year.

Built in 1955, the concrete dam impounds a reservoir which stores 20M m3 of water, and has the capacity to produce 88.5MW of power.

Harris is being used as a peaking power supply plant. The smallest of its four generating units, a 1.5MW generator, uses the instream releases to generate power.

In the summer, the reservoir is a hive of recreational activity populated by rafters, fishermen and others engaged in water recreation. The licensing issue has stalled due to these competing interests of power generation, recreation and fisheries. At the time when the dam was constructed maximising power production was virtually the only concern for the facility.

Today’s society, however, views a river as a versatile public resource. Environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act determine river flows, while an entire industry has grown up around rafting.

In addition to FPL, parties to the licensing process include the Conservation Law Foundation; Trout Unlimited; the Norcross Wild- life Foundation; the Appalachian Mountain Club; Raft Maine, the trade group representing the rafting industry; state agencies, such as the State Planning Office, the Departments of Conservation, Environmental Protection (DEP) and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; and federal agencies such as the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.