Déjà vu all over again on the St. Croix River

Sean Mahoney | @SeanCLF

Photo by Robert F. Bukaty, courtesy of Portland Press Herald Archives

As mentioned in prior posts here and here, CLF’s lawsuit to reopen the St. Croix River to alewives resulted in this letter from EPA agreeing that the Maine Alewife Law violated water quality standards for the St. Croix.

Yesterday, the Maine Attorney General responded to that letter here and the response is disappointing to say the least.  The first half of the letter is not even related to the Alewife Law but rather a gratuitous attempt to bolster the State’s efforts to restrict the jurisdiction of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and other Maine tribes.  The second half of the letter does not contest the findings in EPA’s letter that the Alewife Law constitutes a change in the St Croix’s water quality standard but rather attempts to justify that change as a fishery management exercise unrelated to the Clean Water Act.

As I noted in a interview yesterday on MPBN, you can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig.  Nor is the State’s “commitment” to the so-called adaptive management plan for the St Croix currently under consideration by the International Joint Commission of any real value.  As noted in this article by Colin Woodard, the adaptive management plan may be better than nothing but just barely.

What this means for the St Croix is really nothing more than status quo – passage at the Grand Falls dam will remain closed to alewives as long as the State is willing to let bad science and a small minority of self-interested fishing guides call the shots.  This is even more unpalatable given the current crisis that our lobster fishery is in. A resurgent alewife population (close to 3 million before the State closed fish passage) could only help that industry that can use alewives as bait fish. A robust alewife population would also help the Maine groundfish and whale watching industries, for whom alewives are a key source of food.  For these reasons, as well as the health of the St Croix ecosystem as a whole, CLF remains committed to restoring alewives to their native habitat in the St. Croix.  Stay tuned for next steps.

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