Monday, December 24, 2007

Presumpscot Salmon history

After reading an article in the Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation winter 2007 newsletter by Dusti Faucher of the Friends of Presumpscot River, I learned that the secret negotiations with SAPPI continue to occur. If this “settlement framework” becomes reality the Presumpscot River watershed will always be fragmented and piscatorially impoverished.

Less than a thousand Atlantic Salmon were counted as returning to Maine rivers to spawn this year. On rivers other than the Penobscot 62 salmon were counted in 2007. Incredible numbers of large salmon were seen and caught in Sebago Lake after fish ladders were built on Presumpscot River dams in the 1800’s. The excerpt below from an historical book is another example of history which fosters our resolve to fight this sad surrender of the Presumpscot’s future.

From Fishing in New Hampshire by Jack Noon
" Though there are apparently no documents in existence that gives a sense of the numbers of salmon in the Piscataqua drainage during the early decades of white settlement, in 1717 Merchant Archibald MacPhaedris wrote an account of the salmon to be had "in our new plantations about 40 miles from this town" at "Casko." His enthusiasm for salmon -fishing possibilities might have mirrored the conditions on the Piscataqua a century earlier- before white settlers had commenced
fishing for salmon:

[U]pon ye sea side.... there is more salmon and all manner of fish than in any place in ye World...
The River that leads through ye land, where all your Shipping lays......, is full of Salmon, that in ye season you may take 1000 tuns here. [ A tun is a container holding 252 gallons.] They are sole [sold] for 20/ [(probably) shillings per] Barrell." 15"

Jack Noon also provides an accurate historic account of salmon numbers on an unspoiled Labrador river in the late 1700's. The numbers are about actually 6 times less than that of MacPhaedris's account.

I have to say that the Labrador River had no comparable spawning habitat as the Presumpscot drainage. Even at 6 times less fish taken, that is still a substantial number of salmon.

It is very possible that the Presumpscot – Sebago Lake drainage was the greatest salmon spawning fishery of North America.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poland Springs and Fryeburg Altered Hydrology Wars

Another water war rages west of Sebago Lake in the town of Fryeburg. Poland Spring is extracting water from an aquifer feeding Lovewell Pond. Residents are documenting with photographs how the pond is stagnating in the summer months and water quality has been degraded. The whole affair is a tangled mess. It is similar to Sebago Lake’s recent past in that a consultant or State official with credentials will state an erred conclusion or statement that is greedily welcomed as gospel by those reaping great profits by plundering of the resource and their conclusion are parroted without conscious for eternity.

Remember DEP’s conclusion that erosion has always been an ongoing problem on Sebago Lake and how the high water advocates and the bureaucrats latched on to this conclusion which was disproved by FERC. We learned by watching with great sadness that when SAPPI raised the average lake level and reduced the range, shoreline erosion became an ongoing accelerating problem that has destroyed the world’s finest inland lake beaches.

Lovewell Pond is an undammed lake that naturally fluctuates with the Saco River. It has very nice stable beaches. In the summer low flow months, Lovewell Pond relies on inflow from springs mostly from Wards Brook. Each year the inflow hydrology is radically altered by the extraction of high quality Ward’s Brook aquifer spring water of the amount that would fill a truck tanker sized tube of water stretching from Fryeburg to Boston and back The volume of water contained in this “tube of water” is eliminated from the Lovewell Pond ecosystem annually. Based on a consultant study this extraction is insignificant and has no impact on Lovewell Pond.
The first consultant study cited the extraction was insignificant based on statements by two local residents and one state DEP scientist. The DEP official when questioned explained the amount of extracted water was insignificant in relation to the seasonal river flood inflow to the lake. When questioned about impacts of the extraction during the low flow summer months the State official clarified that her statement was relative to annual water volume of the Pond. She did not say that the extraction would have an insignificant impact on the ecosystem and water quality of Lovewell Pond but that is what Poland Springs has falsely presented publicly. A following study by Normandeau associates has stated the same conclusions based on the first erred report by EGGI. No measurements of water flow or groundwater height apparently were made downstream from the extraction points. Poland Springs claims that they only take the “excess water”.
Similar to SAPPI, Poland Springs has used corporate threats upon a small local populace. SAPPI loves to say basically if you make us obey the Clean Water Act laws we will fire our employees. Poland Springs lawyer Pierce Atwood ( SAPPI’s Lawyers too) threatened Fryeburg with a huge lawsuit if Fryeburg does not interpret their zoning laws suitable to Nestle’s Poland Spring demands. Not happy with the local grass roots opposition , the owner of the water company who sells the towns former spring water to Poland Spring has threatened to raise the water rates of Fryeburg citizens and now is reportedly pursuing this before the PUC.
Poland Spring now armed with the Normandeau study is steadfastly advertising the consultant facts that there is no harm to Lovewell Pond.
They are deflecting claims of lake degradation citing shorefront owners and the rivers contribution. Sound familiar? Poland Spring like SAPPI has learned well from Big Tobacco tactics.