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Tuesday, May 26 2015: Alewives in West Grand Lake, open-pit mining, joys of train travel

Keep alewives out

As part of federally mandated re-licensing of the West Grand Lake dam, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has called for year-round passage of alewives through the dam. This biologically indefensible, woefully misguided recommendation would contravene 30 years of a non-negotiable Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife policy to keep them out.

In 1985, in the midst of an unusually large run of sea-run alewives up the St. Croix River, Rick Jordan and I — both of us are now retired DIF&W fisheries biologists — installed a blocking screen in the fishway to keep them out of West Grand.

Why do we want to continue to exclude alewives from West Grand? Their progeny are strong competitors with native smelt for food, i.e. zooplankton. It’s likely that the critically important smelt population (the No. 1 forage item of salmon) would be adversely impacted by swarms of highly efficient, feeding juvenile alewives. A decline in smelt abundance would inevitably foster a decline in the quality of the salmon fishery.

It makes no sense to jeopardize a justly famous Maine salmon fishery enjoyed annually by thousands of anglers merely to fulfill a highly dubious “mandate” to restore sea-run alewives. While that “mandate” is unquestionably legitimate for various southern New England rivers, it is seriously debatable for the upper St. Croix.

Concerned fishermen should contact the offices of Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, as they have authority to look into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission actions to date.

Ron Brokaw

Kirby, Vermont


Broken system

My husband, 64, has worked since he was 15, raised his family, paid his bills, paid his state and federal taxes. Recently, he lost a bottom front tooth. I asked what he was going to do. He replied that he has been having problems with his teeth and gums. His employer does not offer dental or health insurance. So, therefore, he will have to get a loan .

I have worked in a dental office and health care office throughout my life. Just recently, while at my job in a dental office, a young man came in for his appointment to have teeth extracted. I asked for his insurance and he told me MaineCare. Then he asked me to sign a voucher so he could be reimbursed for his gas.

Something is definitely wrong with this. It saddens and hurts me and many others, the way this system works.

Mary Eveleth



Reject open-pit mining

A revised mining bill, LD 750, will soon come before the Legislature for a vote. Please contact your legislators and ask them to vote against this dangerous bill.

This bill was crafted to favor J. D. Irving and not to protect of Maine’s environment. LD 750, as amended, allows open-pit mining with tailings ponds for treatment and storage of waste. This is a 100-year-old high-risk technology that is a recipe for disaster where sulfide deposits occur, the kind of deposits in Maine.

There is no mining expertise in Maine. Mining engineering consultants were not contacted for

advice on new technologies for mining in this environment. Modern mines using old technology are still causing major environmental disasters. This happened in Canada last year when a tailings dam failed and toxic waste was released into pristine waters.

We can’t let that happen in Maine.

Mining companies worldwide are embracing “best available technology” and moving away from open-pit mining and tailings ponds. We must prohibit open pit mining and tailings ponds in Maine.

Unfortunately, the public does not trust the Department of Environmental Protection under this administration to protect the environment. Maine’s clean water and other natural resources must be protected for future generations.

Dave Wood



Train to the lake

We have neighbors in Charleston, South Carolina, who take Amtrak to Maine each summer. Now with the recent accident, it was good to read Robert Klose selections from E.B. White in his May 20 BDN OpEd. We need to be reminded of the practicality of rail travel and its comforts and conveniences.

White used to leave New York and get off the train in Belgrade for the family summer month on Great Pond.

“Once more to the lake.”

Martha F. Barkley

Belgrade Lakes


Alewives not invasive

Imagine my surprise last week when author and fishing guide Randy Spencer referred to alewives as an “invasive species” in his May 13 BDN OpEd, “How luck might run out for West Grand Lake’s superior landlocked salmon.” The piece is a reaction to the plans for opening a fishway in West Grand Lake’s outlet. Spencer claims that allowing alewives into West Grand Lake would be disastrous for landlocked salmon.

An invasive species is a species that has been taken out of its natural habitat. Free from its predators and diseases it wreaks havoc on its new environment.

Alewives were harvested in abundance by the Wabanaki for thousands of years along with other sea-run fish, including Atlantic salmon. Alewives spend their adult lives in the sea and breed in inland ponds and lakes. Historically there were no artificial dams obstructing them and their range was much larger than it currently is.

How could a fish, native to Maine, that has been harvested here since before recorded history be considered invasive?

One has to wonder if alewives were really so detrimental to salmon, then how was it that in the past the St. Croix, the Penobscot, and other Maine rivers were able to support a salmon fishery at all? The records cited here indicate that alewives were historically abundant in the watershed and yet salmon were also caught commercially.

Largemouth bass, a non-native species that is often illegally stocked in Maine’s waters, is also mentioned in the article but receives little attention. Smallmouth bass, pike and other non-native fish are not mentioned at all. These kinds of illegal introductions are a blight on Maine’s waters, but the alewife is a native fish which has coexisted with our salmon for millennia. I see no reason to label them “invasive.”

Dylan Cookson



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