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City of Lewiston acquires canal system

This postcard provides a birds-eye view of what the canal system looked like around 1915.

The City of Lewiston and Brookfield Renewable have completed the steps required to finalize Brookfield Renewable’s donation of the Lewiston Canal System to the city. This culminates Lewiston’s decade-long effort to obtain ownership of the canals, with the goal of eventually returning them to the gracious, tree-lined waterways that were once an attractive amenity.

“This will support economic development efforts throughout our downtown, mill district, and riverfront by creating stronger and more inviting connections between key destinations,” said Mayor Shane Bouchard. “It will create an environment that will invite residents and visitors to experience our unique, natural, and historic offerings.”

“This has been a collaborative effort,” said Tom Uncher, Brookfield Renewable’s Vice President of Operations. “It is important to us that we be actively engaged in the communities where we operate and that our employees call home. Lewiston will now have the ability to highlight such an important part of the region’s history. We look forward to seeing how this plays a role in the city’s overall economic growth and development.”

The canal system has played an integral role in Lewiston’s history. Largely constructed by Irish immigrants, it spurred the development of the city’s industrial economy, enticing thousands of French Canadians to migrate here to work in the huge mills that it powered.

Initial negotiations to acquire the canals began under prior ownership. Those negotiations were never finalized. Brookfield Renewable acquired the system in 2013, allowing the negotiations to begin anew. Since 2014, the city and Brookfield Renewable have worked cooperatively to complete the due diligence and regulatory steps required to allow the transfer of ownership to take place.

In 2016, the parties reached an agreement, in which Brookfield Renewable would make certain repairs and improvements to the system; ensure that the city would retain all existing water rights – and be allowed to use the water for purposes other than power generation; and donate the canals to the city, subject to their removal from Brookfield Renewable’s Federal Energy Regulatory (FERC) permit. All of these conditions have been met, and the donation was completed on March 22.

“I would like to express my appreciation to the representatives of Brookfield Renewable who have been involved in this process,” said City Administrator Ed Barrett. “They have been forthright, fully cooperated in sharing information, and have shown patience as the city investigated its option and worked through the public process.  They have shown themselves to be valued corporate citizens.”

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