As Gov. Janet Mills points out in her op-ed below, the last thing Maine needs is division over a ruling on the Shawmut Dam permit and the welfare of Sappi’s Somerset pulp and paper mill, which is essential to Maine’s forest economy. I’m heartened to see Gov. Mills stating her commitment to the ongoing stability of the mill. I believe her when she says her “administration will protect the mill and its important contributions to Maine’s economy.” I think the stage has been set for a more productive discussion among parties about a path forward on the Kennebec. We appreciate everyone’s action on this issue and will keep you posted on any further developments.
An open letter to Sappi employees:
On Tuesday morning, I called a meeting with the senior leadership of the Sappi mill to let them know that the mill isn’t going anywhere. Now I want you to hear it directly from me too.
The Sappi mill is critical to Skowhegan, the surrounding region, and the state of Maine, providing good-paying jobs to Maine people and an important tax base for local residents. As one of the last remaining pulp mills in the state, it is also an integral component of our forest economy supply chain, supporting landowners, loggers, and truckers, among others. Closure of this mill, and the resulting ripple effect across the industry, including job losses, would not be acceptable to me — and I will not allow it to happen. My administration’s commitment to the mill is clear and unwavering.
My administration also supports pursuing avenues to help restore the Kennebec River, an important habitat for migratory fish like Atlantic salmon, shad, and river herring. Currently, these fish are not able to reach prime spawning habitat, including the Sandy and Carrabassett rivers, which risks their survival as a species and causes the Kennebec River to fail to meet state and federal standards.
People outside the mill, including politicians and the dam owners, have wrongly suggested that the state is requiring the removal of the Shawmut Dam, going so far as to employ scare tactics and to suggest that my administration wants to close the mill.
Let me be clear: this is untrue. It is not necessary to remove the Shawmut Dam in order to allow fish to pass through successfully. There are good options to achieve fish passage goals without adverse impacts to the mill. For example, the Department of Marine Resources has proposed a natural fish passage that would protect the dam and support revival of Atlantic salmon — a solution I am very interested in.
I have spent my career, both as attorney general and now as governor, focused on finding practical solutions to real-world problems because that’s what Maine people do: we work hard and solve problems.
My administration will protect the mill and its important contributions to Maine’s economy, and we will work to restore Atlantic salmon passage by pursuing innovative solutions. My administration will continue to stand by Sappi, as we have always done, and will work with stakeholders and federal regulatory agencies as this process moves forward.
Brookfield owns the dam and they must play a constructive role in protecting the mill and improving prospects for fish passage to meet state and federal standards. I am calling on them to come to the table to work in good faith to improve this situation, not to engage in fear-mongering of local communities.
Janet T. Mills is governor of Maine.