Letter to the Editor: Fish passage

To the Editor:

Last week I spoke with Chandler Woodcock, commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. We discussed the fact that the Union River Dam and the owners, Brookfield, are now responsible for killing thousands of alewives and American eels with their totally out of date turbines.

Many of us living in the region have had the unfortunate opportunity to bear witness to young-of-the-year river herring and adult American eels that are killed by the operation of the Leonard Lake hydropower dam on the Union River in downtown Ellsworth.

The recent study about fish kill on the river by Brookfield has revealed some discouraging numbers, showing that several of the dam’s turbines are highly efficient at killing adult eels. The results of the study did, however, push Brookfield to adopt a new operating plan that attempts to minimize the chances of killing eels during the peak of their migration.

This is the first step in the right direction, but this year showed that it is not enough.

Starting Oct. 12, 2016, Downeast Salmon Federation staff and volunteers documented and collected river herring and eels that had been killed or maimed while passing over the dam’s downstream “fish passage” or through its turbines in what has become an ongoing fish kill. This makes no sense at all and IFW is at fault by allowing these kills to continue.

I am exceedingly angry about these yearly fish and eel kills. It is my fervent hope that the data collected by all parties involved and the media response to the kills will inform the staff of IFW regulators and the public that there is a need for change, and that there are many more steps that must be taken to begin the recovery of the Union River’s native fisheries. This affects every lobsterman in the state of Maine.

IFW is failing the public in an unprecedented way. Who is enforcing the fishway laws? If your fish-way doesn’t work and you kill fish, you’re breaking Maine law. The current fish-ways are an abomination to biology and are destroying the ecological systems of Blue Hill and upper Frenchman Bay.

Chandler could put an end to all this madness by doing the right thing and instituting new policies of free flow fish passage. He touts a deep understanding of Maine fisheries but allows these atrocities to continue.

I am a businessman whose bottom line depends on healthy ecosystems. This situation with the Union River must stop because every year this continues we move farther and farther away from reviving Maine’s marine fisheries.

Brookfield Renewable Power’s Union River Dam on Leonard Lake is currently under review for a 30-year license. There is also a DEP water quality certification and environmental assessment part of the license up for review.

It is vital that the Union gets upstream and downstream fish passage for all native species at all stages of their lives at both dams and that Graham Lake has a management plan that increases the lake and river’s water quality, fish habitat and benefits shoreline property owners.

Chandler holds the future in his hands for the health of the waters around Mount Desert Island. The people of Maine are depending on him to do the right thing.

Michael Good

Bar Harbor

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