Community Commentary: Palermo Commissioners to work together to manage dam

Sheepscot dam

Community Commentary

by Rep. Jeffrey K. Pierce

Re: Legislative hearing scheduled Sheepscot Dam Issue:

I am a life-long fisherman and have spent many afternoons by a lake or pond, fishing for brook trout or togue. Having healthy populations of fish and access to fish for them is very important to me and my family. As the executive director of Alewife Harvesters of Maine, I am committed to restoring all river fish species, not just alewives, to promote healthy and vital fisheries throughout our state. As you said in your article, healthy fisheries are a vibrant part our communities and homes.

My bill, LD 922, An Act Directing the Commissioner of Marine Resources To Investigate the Conditions of Sheepscot Pond Related to a Management Plan for Anadromous Fish Species, prompts “The Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shall cooperate with the commissioner [Department of Marine Resources] in carrying out the provisions of section 6171 for the management of anadromous fish species and habitat.” Thus, the commissioner of IFW and DMR are prompted to work together to manage the Sheepscot Dam. The Sheepscott Dam is currently open ten out of twelve months of the year, so my proposal suggests that the dam should have free fish passage in the two months that the dam is currently closed. This will not negatively impact water levels of the pond or river since the dam is open almost year-round.

This bill also states that the conditions of Sheepscot Pond will be monitored should the dam be opened in the spring. This monitoring will prevent any negative effects on current populations of fish that are landlocked during the springtime. To date there are no cases of alewives carrying VEN so that is not a concern for other fish populations. About four miles downstream from Sheepscot Pond at Coopers Mills Dam there is an active alewife fishery and they have had no problems with alewives effecting water quality or fish populations. I would encourage anyone to speak with residents of nearby Webber Pond. Alewives were introduced there a number of years ago and they currently have very clean water and an active alewife harvest that benefits the local community.

The Aqua, Animal, and Health Technical Committee is a committee comprised of individuals from the Department of Marine Resources, Inland Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, along with other science-based organizations. In 2017, they reviewed “the question of increased disease risk associated with opening passage to alewives and river herring” and they recommended “that the opening of the Sheepscot Pond fishway did not constitute a significant added risk over current practices.”

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