Important Vote Will Reopen the St. Croix River to Alewives

alewife habitat
The bill passed today will restore alewives, a key forage fish, to the St. Croix River, pictured here. Photo: CanadaGood @ flickr

We at CLF applaud today’s vote by the Maine state legislature to restore Alewives to their native habitat in the St. Croix River.

Today, the legislature voted to pass a bill that will reopen the fish ladder at the Grand Falls Dam, allowing the key forage fish to reach 98% of the St. Croix. This vote caps a two-year effort by CLF advocates to restore a fishery that numbered close to 3 million until a state law closed the fish ladder and the number of alewives dwindled to less than 10,000. Last year CLF successfully filed suit against the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act’s provision related to the state law and then filed suit against the State to invalidate that law.

This bill corrects a practice of fisheries mismanagement that has been allowed to stand for almost two decades. It properly places good science and the interest of many over the self interests of a few. While litigation is the principal tool of our trade, it is wonderful to see the Legislature right this wrong and we hope to be able to dismiss our case against the State soon.

Introduced in March 2013, the bill found strong support among a number of the groups invested and concerned with the restoration of the St. Croix River and its native fish. These groups include Maine fishermen, environmentalists, anglers, federal agencies, and the Passamaquoddy.

The alternative bill proposed by the LePage administration was a half-measure that would have still kept alewives from reaching most of their native habitat.

This vote ensures alewives will now return to the St. Croix River. It is exactly the result that our legal advocacy was aiming for, and we applaud it as an important step forward.

CLF has been blogging on this topic regularly. To read those posts, click here.