WINSLOW (AP) – A group of residents seeking to reverse a decision allowing the breaching of the Fort Halifax Dam on the Sebasticook River announced a lawsuit against the state Monday.

Save Our Sebasticook is naming Gov. John Baldacci, the state Marine Resources Department, State Planning Office and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife as defendants.

Group attorney Linda Lockhart said members are concerned the 5.2 mile impoundment behind the 96-year-old dam will disappear if the dam is breached.

The group also said that reducing the lake to just 10 percent of its current size would be an environmental disaster because it would dry up habitat for nesting eagles, an endangered mussel species and several species of fish.

The dam’s owner, FPL Energy, was required by a 1996 agreement to build a lift to allow upstream passage of sea-run fish, especially alewives and American shad. FPL risked losing its license to generate power if the passage was not in place by last year.

The same agreement resulted in the breaching of the Edwards Dam downstream in 1999. The dam was later removed.

FPL determined in 2002 that it had run out of affordable options to provide for fish passage upstream. Last month, state officials gave FPL the go-ahead to breach the dam as a way to provide a permanent fish passage.

Final approval of the breaching of the Fort Halifax Dam is still required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the dam’s removal, but Save Our Sebasticook is challenging that action in federal court.

SOS claims it never had an opportunity to comment on the 1996 agreement, according to its founder, state Rep. Kenneth Fletcher, R-Winslow, who has a home on the impoundment.

Save Our Sebasticook said it supports the establishment of upstream fish. But the group said the state should use other methods, as it has at dams elsewhere in Maine, in order to preserve their lake.

AP-ES-08-16-04 1303EDT

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