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).
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:
Members of Deerfield River Watershed Trout Unlimited and friends spent three days identifying and recording data for redds on the Upper Deerfield in November and early December 2018. Blowout flood conditions during the month of October forced a frustrating cycle of scheduling, cancelling and rescheduling survey dates. Despite weather conditions that were less than favorable, 17 volunteers led by Erin Rodgers and Mike Hayden found 30 redds on November 17 and 18. Another 50 redds were recorded by teams led by Mike Hayden under more favorable conditions on December 1.
Inspired by the DRWTU spawning study, MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is commencing a long-term study of the brown trout population on the Deerfield. Here’s a May 9, 2018 statement from Adam Kautza PhD, Coldwater Fisheries Project Leader: “We have completed adipose fin clipping to mark the standard annual allotment of all 1000 hatchery Brown Trout that are stocked into the upper Deerfield River. These marked fish will be going out to the river within the next two weeks. Please be aware that there are other hatchery-origin Brown Trout already in the system from past years’ stockings that have not been marked with an adipose fin clip. Physically marking the Spring 2018 Deerfield River batch of hatchery Brown Trout stands as an initial step in a larger effort to learn more about the Brown Trout population in the upper Deerfield River, both hatchery-origin and wild, stream-born fish. Marking of hatchery fish, together with other elements of the Deerfield River Brown Trout Study, will continue for several years. We would like to note that the impetus for this project has largely been through a collaborative effort including meetings and ongoing discussions among Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited (in particular, the Deerfield River Chapter and the Massachusetts-Rhode Island Council), as well as input and assistance from a number of other interested parties and individuals from UMass, USGS, local Deerfield River fishing guides, and local watershed groups.”
Please report all of your encounters with brown trout (both with the adipose fin and without) here.
The DRWTU is in the process of conducting a scientific study to document the spawning activity of trout on the Deerfield River. This is the first spawning study on the mainstem of the Deerfield. DRWTU engaged Dr. Michael Cole of Cole Ecological, Inc to coordinate the study. Volunteers from among the members of the DRWTU chapter have been trained to take part in the study and thus far have collected the data on fall spawning activity in the Deerfield. Preliminary results confirm that brown trout and rainbow trout are actively spawning on the mainstem of the Deerfield. Observations indicate that survival of eggs in the redds (spawning beds) is negatively impacted by the hydropeaking activities practiced by the power company controlling the dam at Fife Brook. DRWTU has requested that the Federal Energy Resource Commission (FERC) require a comprehensive study of the ecological impact of hydropeaking before renewing the license for operation of the dam to the power company. The DRWTU has received donations from Thomas and Thomas, the Deerfield Fly Shop, Swift River Fly Fishing, and individual chapter members in the amount of $7,854 towards the study. As a result of this funding combined with substantial hours of volunteer time on the river, DRWTU is drawing national attention to the Deerfield and the natural reproduction of her trout population. Anyone who would like to donate can do so through the link on our web page. Anyone who would like to participate can attend DRWTU chapter meetings on the third Thursday of the month or contact DRWTU though the contact link on our website.
Update: The initial spawning study was completed in the Spring of 2018 with a final report issued by Dr. Cole on 5-11-19. Since then Young-of-the-Year Brown Trout have been identified near the redds by Michael Hayden of USGS and his observations were verified through DNA testing.
The Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited (DRWTU) is conducting a survey of the spawning activity of wild brown trout on the river. Over the past several years redds (trout spawning beds) have been observed in the fall by a number of guides and anglers, but have yet to be formally documented. According to fisheries biologists and hydro electric dam operators, any trout smaller than stocked sizes (5” to 10” or so) caught by anglers on the Deerfield were exclusively the result of fish spawning in the tributaries of the Deerfield and migrating to the main stem. A classic conundrum.
The DRWTU is committing dollars and man-hours to resolve this question. The spawning survey will document and mark the location of individual redds; document the presence of eggs in those redds; and follow-up on the viability of egg-bearing redds in the Spring. DRWTU anticipates the survey will contribute valuable information to the discussion of native brown trout spawning in the Deerfield mainstem. With this information it may be possible to persuade dam operators to modify their releases to enhance the viability of trout spawn and ultimately create a robust native brown trout population.
Survey teams were trained by TU member and professional ecologist Mike Cole. Teams of TU chapter volunteers began locating and mapping redds the week of 11/13/17 in four study areas. Active redds will be revisited and evaluated for success in Spring 2018.
You can help by making a tax deductible donation to the chapter for this effort and/or encouraging your friends and relatives to donate. Please avoid disturbing the fish on the redds when you are fishing the Deerfield. If you have photos of wild browns (Brown Trout under 10” especially), please pass them along to the chapter by emailing to email@example.com. Click Here [ DRWTU_Spawning_Survey_Protocols_10-28-17 ] for the protocols for the survey authored by Michael B. Cole of Cole of Cole Ecological, Inc.
In 2013, the Chapter was a project partner in an assessment of the Deerfield River that included temperature monitoring at 11 locations from the Dry Way all of the way downriver to a stretch behind Deerfield Academy. The temperature data from the project provided a complete temperature profile of the river across most of its length in Massachusetts. From the data we learned that the river’s warmest reaches are actually its middle reaches between Charlemont and the #4 dam, where summertime water temperatures can reach 80 degrees or higher. Water temperatures were found to be lower in the lower river immediately below the dams than in this middle section of river. Furthermore, water released from Fife Brook dam was found to have a significant and immediate cooling effect on the river as far down as the middle river sections, suggesting that releases can be used to provide cooler water for fish in the Charlemont and Buckland sections of the river. Owing to the importance and potential flow-management implications of these results, DRWTU has continued to monitor river water temperatures at 9 locations from Fife Brook Dam downriver into Deerfield for the past two summers (2014, 2015). These additional data are also important because they corroborate findings across years, and they continue to document the regular occurrence of summertime water temperatures that are stressful to trout. Collectively, these 3 years of water temperature data provide a solid foundation from which DRWTU can make informed recommendations for flow management with respect to maximizing benefits to the river’s coldwater fishery.
In the spring of 2015 DRW TU chapter members assisted the Connecticut River Watershed Council along with land owners and residents of Hawley in planting hundreds of trees and shrubs along sections of the Chickley River that were devastated by tropical storm Irene in 2011. This project took many days over several weeks to complete. Shortly after planting , a drought threatened to setback or kill many of the trees. Local landowners, TU volunteers and others spent dozens of hours transporting water to the thirsty trees. A year later we are pleased to report that over 90% of the planted trees are thriving and will begin to provide a variety of riparian services including reducing runoff and erosion and keeping the river cool during the heat of the summer.
The Crowningshield Project is a first of its kind partnership with TU and the Franklin Land Trust to preserve close to a mile of pristine wild trout water on the headwaters of the West Branch of the North River in Heath, Massachusetts. This project began when Josh Morse and Will Anderson from FLT were evaluating the property of Phyllis Crowningshield for a potential land trust acquisition. The criteria for FLT historically has been for the property in question to have forestry or agricultural value.
The Crowningshield parcel came up short in both categories, and but for the diligence of Will and Josh, would likely have been declined for potential acquisition by the land trust. What they found in hiking the property was a pristine trout stream teeming with wild trout, solid riparian habitat and fields that had turned into prime upland game habitat. They realized that this property had value beyond just the standard forestry and agricultural criteria. FLT reached out to our chapter to see if we had interest in helping acquire this property to preserve this important headwater area. Realizing that the project was to large for our chapter as a single partner with FLT, our Board of Directors chose to bring this important project to the MA/RI Council of TU and the Greater Boston Chapter of TU for help.
To the credit of our colleagues at GBTU and the MA/RI Council, the importance of this project was recognized immediately. Council President John Troiano added the Crowningshield project to the agenda for the next Council meeting. The fast-tracking of Crowningshield was an important element as the owner/seller Phyllis Crowningshield had set a time limit for the deal to be completed.
At the Council meeting Will Anderson and Josh Morse from FLT made an excellent presentation of the Crowningshield property and the elements of the deal to the delegates that form the body of the MA/RI Council. The response from the Council body was overwhelming-all attending chapters save one voted to support the project and help raise the funds to meet the financial benchmark.
Fast forward to April 2015 and of all of the hard work by the staff of FLT, the Deerfield River Watershed TU, Greater Boston TU, and the MA/RI Council has come to fruition. The Crowningshield property has been purchased by the Franklin Land Trust and will be preserved in perpetuity – with the conservation restriction (CR) held by the state of Massachusetts.
A celebration of this accomplishment occured on Wednesday October 19th, 2016 at theCrowningshield Conservation Area site in Heath. Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton and Dept. of Fish and Game Commissioner George Peterson presented thoughtful comments along with TU members and representatives of the FLT.