Day of Celebration on the St. Croix

Sean Mahoney and son Owen hold one of the boards removed from the fish ladder

This post was originally featured on Conservation Law Foundation’s blog CLF Scoop.

It’s not often you get the chance to celebrate such a clear victory for the environment as the return of the alewife to the St. Croix River watershed.  As discussed in prior posts, a Maine law prohibiting alewives from accessing this fish ladder at the Grand Falls Dam was repealed this past May and for the first time in two decades, alewives are able to return to their spawning grounds upriver.  The victory was celebrated not only with partners like Chief Clayton Cleaves of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Downeast Salmon Federation but also with former adversaries, like the US EPA who we sued in order to break the logjam with the federal agencies and establish that the Maine law violated the Clean Water Act. For more background on the case and additional media coverage of this event, see these articles by MPBN and Bangor Daily News.

Members of all groups participate in a Circle Dance lead by Passamaquoddy Leaders

With the removal of this board  and six other just like it, the fish ladder is now open and alewives are returning to the St. Croix River. Work remains to be done on the St. Croix and it was heartening to witness representatives of the Federal trust agencies and the Passamaquoddy Tribe sign a statement of cooperation pledging to  work toward the complete restoration of the St. Croix River. CLF will continue to advocate for the restoration of alewives and blueback herring not only on the St. Croix River but in watersheds throughout New England. And just as importantly, CLF will be working to reduce the bycatch of these critical forage fish at sea when they are migrating back to their natal waters.

It was wonderful to share in the day with CLF board members Davis Pike and Anne Hayden, and CLF supporter Owen Mahoney, as well as other partners such as Lisa Pohlman of NRCM and Landis Hudson of Maine Rivers.  While much work remains, it is truly a thing to celebrate when we are able to reverse the damage we have done to our environment by building broad coalitions, using good science, holding accountable those who are entrusted to enforce the law, and, in this case, removing 7 boards from a fish ladder.

From left: Lisa Pohlman, Davis Pike, Sean Mahoney (with fish), Anne Hayden, and Landis Hudson


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