The effort to restore Alewives to the St. Croix River is about to go into full gear. In addition to our lawsuit challenging the state law that prevents Alewives from getting above the Grand Falls Dam, we are collaborating with other groups and the Passamaquoddy Indian Nation on a legislative solution as discussed in this recent story in the Maine Sunday Telegram. I’d like to take a second to add a couple of points to this fine story by Colin Woodard on the plight of alewives in the St. Croix River.
First, the so-called adaptive management plan that the LePage administration is promoting in a competing bill at the Legislature is, at this juncture, only supported by the LePage administration – it has never even been considered for adoption by the International Joint Commission, has been disavowed by the federal agencies that have jurisdiction over the River, and is not supported by the Canadian government. The lack of any support for the plan is appropriate because it mirrors the lack of any scientific support for its provisions and its inconsistency with sound fishery management that considers more than just the ups and downs of one sport fish.
Second, in a time of fiscal challenges, the legislation that CLF is supporting, L.D. 72, has no costs associated with it – all it requires is the removal of the board that currently blocks the existing fish ladder at the Grand Falls Dam. That is not the case with the adaptive management plan; annual costs for that plan will be at least $50,000 and in some years could be as much as $100,000.
Third, while the Maine Professional Guides Association may be the only groupthat continues to doubt the science that very clearly establishes that alewives and smallmouth bass do not compete for food or habitat, its executive director, Don Kleiner, is not bashful about praising the value of alewives to the smallmouth bass fishery in other forum, such as in this recent newsletter. As Mr. Kleiner noted, ”in the Saint George drainage we are fortunate to have large numbers of sea run alewives that come to lay their eggs in the ponds each spring. As the small alewives begin to move back to sea with the first rains, all of the predator fish begin to feed actively. Yesterday I was down in White Oak Pond with clients and many of the bass that they caught were actually potbellied from all of the feed they have been enjoying.”
Mr. Kleiner’s inconsistency mirrors the State’s inconsistency in its management of alewives on the St. Croix River as opposed to its management of that fishery in every other river in Maine. It’s time for the Legislature to correct itself and remove this inconsistency from the State’s otherwise laudable efforts to restore alewives to Maine’s watersheds.