COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Too many cooks spoil the soup

by Al Althenn
China resident

When I was just a kid living in China 60 odd years ago I remember my grandmother saying, “Too many cooks spoil the soup.” My grandmother and those words keep coming to mind when I think of what has happened and is still happening with China Lake.

China Lake has become a mismanaged and polluted algae soup.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) began peddling its influence as protector of our environment in the late ‘60s. China Lake was not spared this new Crime against Nature.

The issues with China Lake began about 45 years ago due to federal legislation regarding clean water. Vassalboro was being required to treat its raw sewage that had been dumped into the lakes outlet stream at many locations along the winding streams banks.

Vassalboro didn’t want to spend the federal dollars it got to send that sewage to the Waterville Treatment Plant, there appears to be a profit motive there somewhere. The DEP allow raising China Lake five vertical feet insuring a reliable source of flushing water for The Outlet Stream where they (the DEP) located and licensed three crude sewage disposal plants dumping 72,000 gallons of wastewater per day into that stream. Using its influence, the DEP granted the licenses for the plants Vassalboro is currently forced to close due to the plants chronic and abysmal failure.

As the predictable wetlands problems associated with keeping the China Lake water level artificially high and stable through the critical spring and fall growing season became evident, the DEP started making increasingly complicated excuses for its actions. Seeing the writing on the wall the local special interests got involved protecting their very special interests in deeper water at their unique individual properties by pushing the formation of the China Lake Association to walk in a cozy lock-step with a crooked DEP and to act as propaganda artists confusing and misleading the local politicians and voters.

Now along comes interest #3 Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (IFW) tinkering with the very special environment of the uniquely slow water exchange rate (every 2.5 years) of China Lake. Inland Fisheries and Wildlife allowed increased involvement of Coastal interests from the Lobster Bait Industry to take virtually all the natural lake suckers (catostomus commersoni) from China Lake in recent years. I personally observed the way IFW and the bait industry conveniently got around the regulations in place for years to accomplish another crime against nature by IFW manipulating both trapping methods and inspections.

Lake suckers, although edible and vital to the health of this slow exchange rate, are not considered a game fish and therefore not protected by a self-interest motivated IFW (IFW is not funded from the general fund and therefore is in business for itself) hence the big spending IFW did to keep the bear hunt licensed the way it is and keeping a fat cash cow for the bosses at IFW.

I now have reason to believe IFW, in cooperating with the total removal of all the lake suckers, was working with DMR (Department of Marine Resources) prepping China Lake for this next state special interest that was to follow, re-introducing alewives to our lake, not seen here for almost 200 years due to the building of the high dam in North Vassalboro, built there for the mills around the time of the American Civil War.

DMR’s interest and duty is to the Gulf of Maine where, through DMR’s mismanagement, the fisheries, including the herring fishery, collapsed. (Alewives are a sea run anadromous herring). An anadromous fish means a fish born in fresh water and spending most of its life in the sea returning to the same fresh water where it hatched, to spawn.

Getting the herring re-established is critical to the entire fishing industry in the Gulf of Maine. Due to the many disruptive dam removals and, to maximize the quickest return of the alewives, removal of any and all competition to alewives like lake suckers was needed. To do this DMR used lakes and streams that were not coveted for their great fishing otherwise, with the history for the past 45 years of China Lake and the laissez-fair hands off attitude of the residents of China, our lake was a prime target, they could tell us anything and we are ready to believe it.

DMR tried a few alewives (less than six alewives per acre of lake) to snow us. The lake never suffered so many free ranging alewives in the past as the lake had a robust natural predator system alive and well to keep the numbers of sea run alewives in check.

Alewives will out compete and eat everything left in the China Lake basin if this new one-sided self interest of DMR is allowed to go forth in China Lake. Come on selectmen, suck up your courage, research this so you understand what the issues are, and don’t allow the rest of the natural lake to be driven to the same sad extinction the game fish in China Lake have been driven during the past 45 years of DEP and other state agencies’ crimes against nature influence peddling to special interests.


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