Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Anne Hayden


This study investigates the potential benefits of using a broad, multi-ecosystem analysis in the licensing and relicensing of hydropower facilities. Specifically, it considers the impact of river herring restoration on coastal food webs and cod and other groundfish populations in the Gulf of Maine. The past two decades of research on fisheries management, ecosystem connectivity, and the connection between river herring and groundfish in the Gulf of Maine have resulted in a better understanding of the ways in which human activities, such as dam building, influence ecological processes. The paper analyzes two case studies of six Maine dams currently engaged in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) hydroelectric dam relicensing process. The analysis illustrates the shortcomings of the Federal Power Act’s provisions that address the balancing of ecological and power generation concerns. Following the case studies, a series of policy recommendations are presented to encourage a more transparent and predictable relicensing process that adequately values both ecological and power generation goals. Changes are suggested for both the FERC process itself and the process by which state and federal resource agencies may provide comments regarding how a proposed dam licensing or relicensing affects natural resources under their jurisdiction. The proposed policy recommendations will increase the resilience of natural systems as they adapt to climate impacts.