On December 14, 2019 Chris Myhrum submitted comments on behalf of the DRWTU Chapter as an intervener in the FERC relicensing process of the Fife Brook Dam and Bear Swamp Hydroelectric project. You can read the document here.
If you are following DRWTU here or through local media, you know we are embarking on a two year-long study of thirty radio-tagged brown trout in the Deerfield River. This collaboration already involves scores of volunteers from TU and partner conservation agencies, biologists from the USGS Silvio Conte Anadromous Fish Lab, and MA Fish and Wildlife. What should you do if you catch one of those radio-tagged trout?
Please gently and quickly unhook and release the trout back into the Deerfield. Then when you get within cell phone coverage, please call and report the catch to DRWTU President Mike Vito at 413-320-1521. You are going to want to report the catch to MA Fish and Wildlife using the link on our banner above.
What if you ‘take’ a tagged fish legally or find a dead fish with a radio tag? Well, we would hope you would forego taking a fish out of our study, but if you choose to take the fish we can reuse the transmitter. Please call 413-320-1521 to make arrangements to turn it in.
The North River is one of the major tributaries of the Deerfield River; it is designated as a ‘Major River’ by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
At about 12:30 PM on September 1, I observed hundreds of dead fish at my house near the confluence with the Deerfield. I traced the multiple sizes and species of dead fish upstream to the Route 112 bridge at Call Road which is just downstream from this Barnhardt Manufacturing plant. On September 2, the DEP confirmed to reporters that a leak of sulfuric acid had occurred at this Barnhardt cotton processing facility.
CORRECTION: The dead fish included the long-nosed sucker a ‘listed’ species in Massachusetts. Read about the special status of this fish at the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species web page. The photograph below turns out to be a Longnose Dace. This species is not listed in MA. However, Leanna Fontaine is the biologist from MA F&W who was called in after I reported the spill to the MA Environmental Police. She left me a voice message today (9/3/19) stating she had seen multiple species in her sojourn out here to the North River including “black nosed and longnose dace and white suckers and longnose suckers, tessellated darters, common shiners, creek chubs and the like and a a couple of salamanders and crayfish.” So she did find longnose suckers – the species of special interest per the MA Natural Heritage and Endangered species.
Hope this information helps to further clarify the significance of this event.
I reported the fish kill and apparent spill to the MA Environmental Police. They reported it to DEP and a MA F&W biologist was notified and investigated. The media started to report the story on September 2. Here’s a video of fellow DRWTU board member Chris Jackson and I being interviewed by Channel 22 news. Here’s the story as reported by the Greenfield Recorder. Watch this website for updates as this story develops.
Through social media many local residents have expressed outrage about the failure of the plant to get the word out that a dangerous chemical had been leaked into a river that is used for fishing and swimming by their children and families. Many questions are still unanswered. Below are some photos taken by a student at Mohawk Trail Regional High School who lives along this stretch of the river.
Join us in our mission to address this issue and protect and preserve coldwater fisheries including the North River and the entire Deerfield River Watershed. Currently we have several conservation projects planned including a study of trout movement using telemetry and a September 28 river clean-up effort at Bardwells Ferry with our partner organization, the Connecticut River Conservancy. A ‘Rock Roll’ to create a cold water refuge for trout at the mouth of the Pelham Brook will get underway as soon as we get the local permits required. Become a member of our chapter, or make a donation By clicking the button below.
We are very excited to be able to share the final report of the Second Deerfield River Trout Spawning Study. The pdf is available to read or download here. The report authored by Erin Rodgers, PhD, with contributions from Mike Hayden, was submitted to TU National on July 13 as part of the final Embrace a Stream grant report. Thanks to the efforts of our members and the friends of DRWTU who participated in this study, we have been able to demonstrate that brown trout spawning on the mainstem of the Deerfield is not an anomaly. The Deerfield River is a wild trout fishery!
TU National supports new legislation coming out of congress called Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) and you can too. Read all about it here. Then, contact your congressional representative and urge them to vote for this bill.
Read all about it here: https://www.mass.gov/news/brown-trout-study-continues-on-the-upper-deerfield-river
Wild Brown Trout Want YOU to report your catch – any trout in the section of the Deerfield below Fife Brook Dam and above Shelburne Falls (#4 Dam). Click —>Here<—- to report
Update April 25: MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and US Fisheries and Wildlife Service both cited the DRWTU Trout Spawning Studies in comments filed with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) (See links below).
DRWTU Attorney Chris Myhrum has filed two official documents on our behalf intended to impact the relicensing of Fife Brook Dam and the Bear Swamp Project.
What we are asking for in the FERC arena:
- Increase winter minimum flows in winter to 350 cfs to keep redds adequately covered
- Ramping up and ramping down to protect young of year fish
- Earlier in day recreation releases to provide for cold water relief during hot days
- Reducing disparate hydropeaking events
In the MA DEP arena we are advocating for all the same stuff as the FERC venue, but we are also asking MA DEP order Brookfield to conduct an Instream Flow Assessment (IFIM) study now, as well as at the time the Great River license comes up for renewal so we can assess hydropeaking impacts on spawning and young of year fish, and other river ecological damage resulting from Brookfield operations. This IFIM has already been requested in the FERC process multiples times by our agency partners. Brookfield has offered to conduct a 7 mile stretch survey, however, we want the entire 17 mile stretch done.
Board Members Chris Jackson, Sheila and Eric Halloran attended a meeting at the invitation of the Connecticut Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Wilmington VT last month. The meeting previewed a more formal presentation of the plan for the US Forestry Service conservation project on a section of the Green Mountain National Forest that includes the headwaters of the Deerfield River in Southern Vermont. TU Biologist Dr. Erin Rodgers also presented at the preview meeting. At the end of the meeting the local TU chapter put out a call for volunteers to get involved in conservation activities and citizen science projects in support of the Forest Services project. We expressed interest in helping out on behalf of the DRWTU Chapter.
We presented our summary of the Proposed plan at the DRWTU Chapter meeting on March 21. Timelines were tentative at that point but now the timelines are set, the public notice has been issued, and the public comment period is open. Follow the link below to see the public notice in the Rutland Herald.
This letter(<—- Click Here) from the Forest Service announces an Open House to be held at the Manchester Community Library on April 11 from 4:30 to 7:30. It also provides details on several options to comment open the plan. Please Note: Only entities that comment on the plan have the option of submitting an objection in response to the final draft of the proposal which is projected to be at the end of the calendar year..
Here’s a link to the US Forestry Service’s slideshow about the project:
As co-chair of the DRWTU Conservation Committee, Kevin Parsons has submitted a letter along with the interim report from the second year’s spawning study on the Deerfield River to the Federal Energy Resource Commission. Click Here to see Parsons Letter.
- DRWTU is recommending that during the hot summer months of July and August, Mass Fish and Wildlife adopt no fishing zones within 100 feet from the mouths of posted cold-water tributaries: Pelham Brook, Cold River, Chickley River, Avery Brook, Clesson Brook, etc. In many summer months, the mouths of cold-water tributaries offer trout sanctuary from rising temperatures in the river’s mainstem. Schools of vulnerable, relief-seeking trout often congregate near or at the mouths of colder-water tributaries and could become severely stressed from fishing pressure.
- DRWTU is also recommending that all “Power Baits” should be considered live bait. Power Baits are manufactured specifically with customized scents to attract fish, the same as live bait and chum. If adopted by Mass Fish & Wildlife, Power Baits will be banned in sections of the Deerfield where live bait use is banned .