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The Milltown Generating Station in St. Stephen. Image: Submitted/Atlantic Salmon Federation

Century-old Milltown dam being torn down

By Brad Perry Aug 8, 2023 | 6:16 AM

Work is underway to decommission a century-old dam along the St. Croix River in St. Stephen.

NB Power has decided it was not feasible to try and restore the Milltown Generating Station.

Phil Landry is the executive director of the project management office and engineering at the utility.

Landry said three of the dam’s four units are no longer in operation, and the fish passage system is out of date.

“After extensive reviews, it was determined that the cheapest cost option for New Brunswickers was to decommission the station,” Landry said in a recent interview.

But decommissioning the generating the station is a “complex” project for a number of reasons, he said.

For one, the dam sits half on Canadian soil and half on United States soil. That means NB Power had to get approval from multiple agencies in both countries for the work.

It is also the first time that the electric utility has ever removed a dam. It has hired Pennecon Heavy Civil Limited, which has over 50 years of operating history, to do the work.

Landry said removing the dam and generating station will allow for more fish spawning habitat by restoring about 16 kilometres of the St. Croix River.

In addition, it will not have a major impact on the province’s power grid, he said, as it accounts for less than one per cent of hydro generation.

However, Landry said he understands that decommissioning the facility is not a popular decision for some.

“When we’ve had a dam in a community for well over 100 years, it becomes part of their DNA, it becomes part of who they are, so we’re not taking that lightly at all,” he said.

Landry said the utility will make sure what is left behind in the area is something that can be acceptable to all residents.

Decommissioning the generating station is expected to cost New Brunswick taxpayers around $20 million.

Landry said the work has to be done by the end of April, ahead of the annual fish passage.


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