ChipLakeNEWS InfoSheet

This InfoSheet is number: 1020

Summary: Compilation of the first several e-mails discussing the proposed
Maine Legislative Document #365

PREAMBLE, TEXT AND SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED BILL
(VIA http://janus.state.me.us/legis/bills/ ):

MAINE LEGISLATIVE DOCUMENT #365
Emergency preamble. Whereas, Acts of the Legislature do not become effective until 90 days after adjournment unless enacted as emergencies; and
Whereas, this legislation needs to take effect before the expiration of the 90-day period to allow for the spring [2001] migration of alewives; and
Whereas, in the judgment of the Legislature, these facts create an emergency within the meaning of the Constitution of Maine and require the following legislation as immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety; now, therefore,
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:Sec. 1. 12 MRSA 6134, as enacted by PL 1995, c. 48, 1, is amended to read:
6134. Alewives passage; fishways on the St. Croix River
By May 1, 2001, the commissioner and the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shall ensure that fishways on the Woodland Dam and the Grand Falls Dam, both located on the St. Croix River, are configured or operated in a manner that allows the passage of alewives.
Emergency clause. In view of the emergency cited in the preamble, this Act takes effect when approved.


SUMMARY
This bill requires the Commissioner of Marine Resources and the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to ensure by May 1, 2001 that fishways on the Woodland Dam and the Grand Falls Dam, both located on the St. Croix River, are configured or operated in a manner that allows the passage of alewives.

NOTE: This is a new bill (not carried over from the 119th Legislature) and no status is listed on the Maine Legislature's web site. No hearing date is posted at this time to my knowledge. A note on a different page at this web site noted the following: <Committee of Reference: Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Thu Feb 8, 2001 - Committee Report: Not Reported Out>

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THE ORIGINAL DISCUSSION WAS INITIATED BY LANCE WHEATON REGARDING THE PROPOSED "Emergency Law ME LD365" ON 2/17/01:
Lance asked if CLIC will again align itself with the Sportsman's Coalition that it had previously joined in opposing this proposed emergency bill which seeks to open the middle St. Croix River and all the lakes and streams of it's western branch to the spring 2001 run of alewives.
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To BOB ELLIS: A proposed letter of opposition to Maine Legislative bill 365, as you requested by phone:

FROM: Chiputneticook Lakes International Conservancy, P. O. Box 4, Orient, ME 04471
TO: The Sportsmen's Coalition
(Princeton Rod & Gun Club, Princeton, ME)
(Grand Lake Stream Guide's Association, Grand Lake Stream, ME)
(Sporting Camp Owner's Association)
and TO: Legislature of the State of Maine
and TO: Whomever It May Concern:
The 371 member Chiputneticook Lakes International Conservancy (CLIC) represents people who are concerned about well being of the lakes and streams of the Chiputneticook Lakes area, specifically Monument Brook, North Lake, East Grand Lake, Mud Lake, Spednic Lake and Palfrey Lake and all their contributaries...from North Amity to Vanceboro, Maine.
Likewise, we are as well concerned with the well being of our neighboring lakes and waterways to our immediate south and into which feeds our waterway.
CLIC aligns itself with the above noted Sportsmen's Coalition and vehemently opposes the passage of Maine State Legislative Bill #365 which proposes to allow the passage of searun alewives, an anadromous fish above the dam located at Woodland, Maine and into the middle St. Croix River System up to the dam at Vanceboro, ME and also into the West Branch of that system through the Grand Falls Flowage/Big Lake system up to the dam at Grand Lake Stream.
Signed:
Date: February ____ 2001

When documented, mail a hard copy to: Lance Wheaton, HC 81 - Box 101, Forest City, ME 04413
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RESPONSE FROM BOB ELLIS:
I have also sent letters to Senator Mike Michaud, Rep. Roger Sherman, and Rep. George Bunker,Jr. as well as a copy and fax with our letterhead to Ralph Butterfield so that he can deliver it to The Sportsmen's Coalition group that you suggested as well as to Andy Brooks who heads the Forest City Guide Association. I used almost the exact letter that you drafted. Thanks a million. After talking to Lew Bone, we decided not to send a separate letter to Lance Wheaton since this could cause a problem if we did not send a separate one to all the other sporting camp owners. Keep in touch. Thanks for your help. Bob Ellis
To LANCE WHEATON: It appears that the letter we discussed a couple days ago will bypass you but will be forwarded. You can discuss this with Ralph Butterfield as you see fit. I received your forward regarding the Alewife release with picture. The forward said that this was "going to press"... where?
To BILL WALTON: Lance asked me to forward this to you and to let you know that the paper the article he sent you will be THE DOWN EAST TIMES. Going to press today. There will be several others coming out soon. From all we gather it will be a hard fight to knock down this bill but one everyone seems to feel we need to fight. Will keep you posted. Thanks Lance Wheaton [georgie]
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[forwarded mail]
THE THREAT:
Perhaps no population has ever had as much to fear from a fish as Washington County, Maine does right now. This particular fish has a rap sheet. It is the past plunderer of world-class fisheries. It is one of the most consummate feeding machines known in nature, with a digestive tract that operates at the speed of blight. It’s appetite is not confined to lesser fish, or any select groups in the food chain. It has instead, an indiscriminate hunger that works around the clock like a vacuum. Plankton, insects at all stages of the life cycle, frye, and whole young-of-the-year classes of juvenile game fish are the victims of this ravenous feeder, and few things can throw an ecosystem out of balance any faster. And if that weren’t enough, this same fish carries a disease–one that is likened to the HIV virus in humans, inasmuch as it is not the virus itself that ultimately kills; it is a weakened immune system that causes eventual mortality. Moreover, the disease is transmissible to American landlocked smelt, and landlocked salmon, the prize of the region’s sport fishery. This fish, so eminently capable of infamy when allowed above the tide into pristine freshwater fisheries, is the alewife (alosa pseudoharengus).
THE HISTORY:
The alewife has a rich history all its own below the tide. Samuel de Champlain, responsible for the first European settlement of this region in 1604, reported enough alewives with each tide at what is now Milltown Falls on the St. Croix river, “to feed a European city.” Passamaquoddy history tells of tribal pilgrimages to the Falls for the harvesting of alewives for food, fertilizer and a host of other uses. There are still many local people alive today who remember fishing commercially for alewives in the lower St. Croix, icing them down and loading them onto boats headed for the West Indies. In its natural range, this fish has served an important purpose. Historically, what insulated upstream freshwater species from its voracious appetite was, perhaps by no fluke of nature, the fact that alewives are unable to swim in broken water. Steep grades of turbulence mean their migration has gone as far as it’s going to go. When, in 1981, a fishway was built below the Milltown power station allowing the passage of alewives, they swarmed up the east branch of the St. Croix and infested Spednik Lake. Up to that time, Spednik was generally regarded on the sporting scene as one of the best smallmouth bass lakes in North America, if not the world. By 1985, it was virtually desecrated. Under the leadership of Region F DIF&W fish biologist Mike Smith, scuba teams were launched to study the disaster. Teams (including Region C biologists) worked day and night in an exhaustive outlay of man hours, compiling documentation of findings along the way. Their reports concluded that sexually mature bass were spawning all right, but four weeks later all the young were gone! That represented millions of fish and entire “young-of-the-year” classes. It was further speculated that what was taken from the smallmouth bass was also taken from every other species in the lake. Staff and funding were applied to bass alone. The predator/prey balance, the food chain, the spawn–everything had been knocked out of whack and in an alarmingly short time. The single new ingredient in Spednik Lake during this time period had been the introduction of alewives. Ultimately, on the strength of this science, a screen was installed at the Vanceboro dam, and in the fifteen years since, Spednik Lake has begun to recover, though it still bears little resemblance to its former self. In 1995, again drawing on the strength of the DIF&W’s own findings, new legislation was enacted to configure dams at Woodland and Grand Falls on the St. Croix “in a manner that prevents the passage of alewives.” When the bill passed, Region C fish biologists worked in conjunction with Registered Maine Guides to institute good monitoring practices, slot limits, and other measures to grow and maintain the excellent fishery that exists today in Big Lake, Long Lake, Lewy Lake and the St. Croix Flowage. These are the waters most at risk if alewives were allowed through the existing screens at Grand Falls and the Woodland dam.
THE BILL:
Bill #LD365 coming before the Maine legislature next month reads as follows: “An Act to Restore the Passage of Alewives on the St. Croix River.” It is an emergency bill, the criteria for which are the preservation of “the public peace, health, and safety.” Which one applies here? The emergency preamble states, “whereas acts of the legislature do not become effective until 90 days after adjournment unless enacted as emergencies,” and, “whereas this legislation needs to take effect before the expiration of the 90-day period to allow for the spring migration of alewives...” In layman’s language, this is a rush job. Confused? A long paper trail of the most compelling evidence ever gathered against the introduction of alewives was generated by the same body that now sponsors a bill to reintroduce them? How did this happen? It appears DIF& W drew the short straw. Federal monies were involved in the building of the dams at issue, and federal pressure has reportedly been applied to the department to comply with the Canadian agenda, which includes the reintroduction of alewives. The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), which has jurisdiction over all anadromous fish, has apparently received the same message and is on board backing the bill. In opposition–– Registered Maine Guides, Passamaquoddy and white, local lodges, businesses, sport fishers, all of District 4’s senators and representatives, and others fighting an uphill battle to save one of the few infrastructures remaining in Washington County–it’s value as a sporting destination. It was responsible last year for 7000 angler days and an estimated infusion of 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 million dollars into the local economy.
NEXT WEEK: The alewife disease, VEN, and how its dangers are being brushed off by the DMR and the DIF&W. Also, who has what to gain, and who has what to loose if Bill #LD365 passes, and, the 4-alewife-per-acre “invisible clause” in the bill, that would appear to defy enforcement...
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[forwarded mail]
I reviewed the message that you (or someone) forwarded to me regarding LD 365 - the passage of alewives on the St. Croix. I had already discussed the issue with the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Honey, and I talked at some length about it with Lance Wheaton and Dale Speed today (at the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council meeting in Augusta). I will be meeting with the MPGA [Maine Professional Guide's Association] Board of Directors this weekend, and my advice to them will be that the MPGA strongly oppose this bill. We already know what alewives can sometimes do to an existing fishery - Spednik for example. It never made any sense to me to dump alewives into a body of water where they never existed or where they haven't existed for many, many years. As near as I can determine, alewives were never able (on their own) to reach the waters that LD #365 would open up until the removal of the natural barrier in Milltown in 1980. Is that accurate? Anyway, unless I miss my guess, the MPGA will be fighting to keep the involved fishways closed to the passage of alewives. Stay in touch! Skip Trask
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REMOVED BY REQUEST
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What a dreadful idea! Having been in a position to handle legislative activities for a Federal bureau (NPS), one of my first concerns was to find out who is behind a particular proposal, and why. Might be a good idea for someone in the area to check that out. (Know your opponents, so to speak.) I've seen alewives both in the Flowage at Princeton, and in the St. Croix below the dam at Baileyville. Seems as if only the Loons liked 'em. That was a long time ago, somewhere about in the middle of the forty plus years I've been fishing in Washington County. But the alewife image has not faded. If you get any more background info, I would appreciate hearing about it. The least I can do is to write a letter. (I MIGHT still be a member of the F.C. Guides Ass'n., but a letter from "away" might be called for.) Thanks, and good luck! Bob Landau.
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I have not seen any, but have been told that there are lots of [landlocked] Alewives in East Grand Lake. Has this always been or is this something new to the lake? Thank you for all the information you provide. Arthur LaRiviere
ARTHUR: There were no alewives in EGL until several (3-5?) years ago when it is thought that someone illegally introduced them. It is said by some that they were introduced near the mouth of the Thoroughfare and by others, down in Greenland Cove. Although the same species as the searun alewives, the landlocked version is substantially smaller 6"- 7" max length compared to 12"-14" for searun. They are said to be good baitfish for salmon. I have caught several salmon and found small alewives inside...you can easily tell them from smelt because the alewife eye is quite large. I'm not sure whether or not larger salmon and togue prey on adult alewives. Apparently it has a voracious appetite and will eat ANYTHING smaller than it is. I believe that in some lakes (in other states) the landlocked alewife has proven to be a good forage fish but to my knowledge no other Maine lake with landlocked alewives has been studied. The great disadvantage is that the alewife is said to descimate (sp?) ALL the resident smelt which is apparently the case in EGL as the smelt fishery is currently suffering and it has been reported that the spring smelt fishery will be closed starting this year (2001)...nothing final yet, though. Additionally, there is no apparent way to rid the lake of landlocked alewives once they are established. The local guide's association reported many alewives in salmon bellys and almost no smelt throughout the summer of 2000. At this point, nothing has been established as to whether or not they are all bad, partly bad, neutral, partly good or wonderful. The sportsmen's associations are saying "Don't introduce the sea run variety in the middle St. Croix until we know the final outcome because the alewives may also descimate the bass population as it does/has the smelt population. Don't proceed until we KNOW." I think that LD365 will amend current law to allow (only?) 90,000 alewives to pass Grand Falls Dam (translates to 4 alewives per lake-acre, I think) AND allow a management plan to proceed.
And there's more to it than meets the eye. There are factions on the Canadian side that want the alewives and haven't been heard from as yet.I think all that I have said is factual (but then again, I'm from New Jersey). More will be released when it is KNOWN.
BILL, Thanks for your prompt reply. Lets hope that the landlocked alewives are beneficial. Keep the information coming. Thanks, Arthur
BILL, I got this off the Internet: The alewife is a small herring having a greenish to bluish back and silvery sides with faint dark stripes. It has a small patch of teeth on its tongue. The see-run form is common on Long Island and in the Hudson and lower Mohawk rivers. It is also reported from the St. Lawrence River. The landlock form is common in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Finger Lakes area, Oneida Lake, Oswego River system, and Ballston and Round Lakes. Recently it has been introduced in various reservoirs in the upper Delaware drainage system (Pepacton and Cannonsville).
Sea-run alewives move up freshwater streams from the sea to spawn during the period from late April to early June. Spawning takes place in lakes and sluggish stretches of rivers above tidal influence. Landlocked alewives move from deep water to shallow beaches in lakes or move up streams to ponds to spawn in the spring.
Females usually move to the spawning areas just before the males. Spawning takes place at night in groups of two of three over a sandy or gravelly bottom. Fresh water females deposit 10,000 - 12,000 eggs, whereas their sea-run counterparts produce 60.000 - 100,000 eggs. Eggs are broadcast randomly, are demersal (that is, they sink), and are not particularly adhesive. Adults leave the spawning area after spawning; no care is given eggs of young by the adult fish. In less than a week, the young alewives hatch to begin feeding on minute, free-floating plants and animals. By fall, the young alewives make their way back to the sea or, in the case of landlocked populations, to the deep waters of lakes. Landlocked alewives reach an average length of about 6 inches when adults.
In New York the freshwater alewives, sometimes called sawbelly, is an important forage fish (food) for popular game fish. They have been stocked in some waters specifically to provide food for trout and salmon. Because of their small size, the freshwater alewives are not a sport fish; rather, they help to maintain sport fisheries in many inland waters.
There are landlocked Salmon in the Finger Lakes, and to my knowledge, Lake Erie has made a comeback in their Smallmouth Bass. I look at this as being positive. I hope it has the same effect on EGL. Arthur L.
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To LEE SOCHASKY: Where does the SCIWC et. al. stand on this issue? Is this issue of interest to the IJC? I'd like some input from you for the SCIWC and it's subcommittees (e.g. Fisheries Steering Committee) on [LD 365]
BILL: I've had confirmation from the IF&W committee clerk that the public hearing on LD 365 "An Act to Restore the Passage of Alewive on the St. Croix River", will be held at 10am on Monday, March 12, in Room 209 of the Cross State Office Building, in Augusta. This information will be published this morning. Lee
BILL: I suggest that your first CLIC email on this subject relay:
1) the Steering Committee proposal for future alewife management, [SEE SEPARATE
INFOSHEET #1021: St. Croix Fisheries Steering Committee Management Plan for Alewives and Smallmouth Bass]
2) the object of LD 365 (to achieve the first part of the management plan) and
3) the Steering Committee's consensus views on St. Croix alewife and bass info. [SEE SEPARATE INFOSHEET #1021: St. Croix Fisheries Steering Committee Management Plan for Alewives and Smallmouth Bass]
I will email you the first two on Sunday or Monday (I don't have them at home). These documents lay a very good foundation. If they go out first, people will be better equipped to understand the various views and machinations. Lee

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EDITOR'S NOTE: In the spring of 2008, another attempt to open the St. Croix to sea-run alewives was attempted but ultimately at least partially foiled by fast work by many concerned local residents and fishermen and with the strong help and support of the Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe. My act of the Maine government, Alewives will be allowed up to but not past the Grand Falls Dam and Power plant.

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