GRAND LAKE STREAM — In the spring of 2013 the Maine House of Representatives and Senate passed L.D. 72, allowing the passage of alewives into the St. Croix River Basin.

After meeting with representatives of the Grand Lake Stream Guides Association and listening to some of the strong and clear evidence that the alewife was never native to the upper St. Croix (above Salmon Falls in Calais), Gov. Paul LePage refused to sign the bill. However, the law still went into effect in 2013.

Last spring the water was high because of excessive rains, and the water velocity was too strong in the artificial fishways at the dams along the St. Croix at Grand Falls Dam, Woodland Dam and the Milltown Dam (Salmon Falls), preventing the alewives from migrating from the sea into our lakes and streams. So far this year, it’s been a similar scenario, at least for the time being. It seems Mother Nature might be on the side of the sportsman this time.

In the early 1980s, alewives were allowed to enter the upper St. Croix River Basin. Big Lake, Long Lake, Lewey Lake and the Grand Falls Flowage fisheries suffered greatly. Spednic Lake (known as the “wonder lake”) was completely decimated and the bass and salmon fisheries destroyed. The alewife run at that time was about 2.6 million.

Around 1990, the alewives were stopped by blocking the fishways at the above-mentioned dams. That was about 25 years ago, and finally, after careful management of the sport fisheries in all of these lakes, the bass and salmon fishing is finally making a comeback. Now, passage of L.D. 72 will allow introduction of more than 10 million alewives.

There is little doubt, according to the evidence being gathered through old surveys and documents, that the alewife was never native to the upper St. Croix River Basin. There were three natural barriers: Salmon Falls (where the Milltown Dam is today); Sprague’s Falls (site of the Woodland Dam), and Grand Falls (the Grand Falls Dam). Excessive water velocity and severe vertical restrictions at all three locations were impossible for the alewife to overcome.

Many reports by the Canadian government, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and other sources support this finding. As well, there are studies and reports completed by state biologists during the 1980s under the IF&W at Spednic Lake that indicate the harmful effects of alewives on the fisheries.

The alewife is a “virtual eating machine.” They migrate in the millions, devouring plankton – the foundation of life in an aquatic system – and other food in huge amounts. Without plankton, just-born (fingerling) bass, salmon and other species will not have sufficient food to eat. So, with our short available growing season, the fingerlings will not be able to put enough size and weight on to make it through their first winter. This is what occurred at Spednic Lake in the 1980s and in other parts of the country. And the list just goes on.

The state of Maine has a law against the introduction of an invasive species, and a fine of $10,000 can be imposed on someone for doing so. The alewife, by the huge amount of evidence, is not natural to the St. Croix and is an invasive species. There are problems throughout the entire state of Maine with invasive species. They are a constant issue that is dealt with by the IF&W. The ban on introducing an invasive species is a very important law, and there are reasons for it.

Passage of L.D. 72 was a huge mistake and will have devastating consequences to Washington County. The bass and salmon fishing that bring thousands of people to our area every year will be lost, and along with it, millions of dollars.

Maybe there is a state legislator or senator who, after learning of this information, will have enough responsibility, integrity and sense to introduce a bill to stop this action and conduct a proper and full investigation of the evidence and facts before it is too late.

If the fishing resource of the upper St. Croix River Basin is destroyed, property values will drop along with tax revenue, jobs will be eliminated, tourist dollars will be gone and businesses will greatly suffer or no longer exist.

More importantly, future generations will not be able to experience what our area truly has to offer because it will be gone forever. And who will pay for the alewife? You guessed it – the people of Maine will.

— Special to the Press Herald