The story of a river unleashed

Sixteen years and $60 million after it started, the Penobscot River Restoration Project was a success. An unlikely alliance of partners overcame tremendous challenges to remove two dams and construct a river-like bypass around a third on Maine’s Penobscot River. The project enabled sea-run fish to reach 2,000 miles of historical spawning habitat for the first time in 200 years, while maintaining hydropower production and increasing recreational opportunities. This was an amazing story of conservation, collaboration, and perseverance that needed to be told. 

Client

Penobscot River Restoration Trust

PRRT is a nonprofit organization consisting of the Penobscot Nation, American Rivers, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, Natural Resources Council of Maine, The Nature Conservancy, and Trout Unlimited.

Opportunity

PRRT wanted to share their behind-the-scenes story in a compelling and inspiring book—not a technical report or scientific tome but a lively, engaging narrative. PRRT commissioned Waterview Consulting to bring the story to life.

Process

We met with the PRRT Executive Committee to learn about their perspectives on the river restoration project and their ideas for the book. Then over the next year Waterview Consulting’s Kara Douglas and Peter Taylor interviewed more than 50 people who had been involved in every aspect: a grandmother whose grandchildren loved to look out her window at one of the dams, scientists, fishermen, members of the Penobscot Nation, hydropower executives, philanthropists, community organizers, local business owners, and DC lobbyists and agency staff who secured federal funding, to name a few. We distilled their varied recollections of events spanning two decades, along with information we found through historical and scientific library research, into a compelling, page-turning narrative.

Results

We were thrilled that Islandport Press, a trade book publishing company, published the final manuscript as the 144-page book From the Mountains to the Sea: The Historic Restoration of the Penobscot River. The book tells the inside story of the challenges, compromises, and key turning points in this monumental effort to balance political, social, environmental, and economic values. It is a story of people with diverse interests working together for the common good—overcoming setbacks that could have proved insurmountable—to revitalize the ecosystem. The book received favorable reviews from The Wall Street Journal and other publications. It is available for purchase from Amazon or Islandport Press.

The drama is in the unlikely partnerships, and the book is wonderful in its nuanced, step-by-step portrayal of how rugged it can get when engineers and ecologists take the measure of each other. This is a beautifully designed book, with its useful sidebars, snappy pull quotes and stunning photographs of the river and its wildlife. The story of the Penobscot River’s restoration affirms not just those recuperative powers of nature, but the nearer possibility of a day in which all of us, engineers included, might work within that sacred circle of life.
Richard Adams Carey

The Wall Street Journal

From the Mountains to the Sea: The Historic Restoration of the Penobscot River should be required reading for folks in need of perspective—and inspiration.
Carl Little

The Ellsworth American

The drama is in the unlikely partnerships, and the book is wonderful in its nuanced, step-by-step portrayal of how rugged it can get when engineers and ecologists take the measure of each other. This is a beautifully designed book, with its useful sidebars, snappy pull quotes and stunning photographs of the river and its wildlife. The story of the Penobscot River’s restoration affirms not just those recuperative powers of nature, but the nearer possibility of a day in which all of us, engineers included, might work within that sacred circle of life.
Richard Adams Carey

The Wall Street Journal

From the Mountains to the Sea: The Historic Restoration of the Penobscot River should be required reading for folks in need of perspective—and inspiration.
Carl Little

The Ellsworth American

Science Writing

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