By Kevin Miller
A legislative committee endorsed a plan Wednesday to allow sea-run alewives back into part of the St. Croix River.
Members of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee voted 12-1 in support of a compromise bill, LD 1957, that would reopen the Woodland dam to sea-run alewives.
The bill as originally proposed would have allowed alewives, which are also known as river herring, beyond both the Woodland and Grand Falls dams for the first time since 1995. But the amended version, which now heads to the full Legislature for consideration, was regarded as a good first step given the controversy over reintroducing alewives into the St. Croix watershed.
Registered guides and the leadership of the Passamaquoddy Tribe opposed to the measure had argued that sea-run alewives posed a threat to the region’s prized smallmouth bass and landlocked salmon, which are in turn key to the local economy. But biologists and conservation groups said the species co-exist in other Maine lakes and rivers.
Under the compromise bill, the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife must develop a river herring management plan before any decision is made to allow alewives beyond Grand Falls.
The two agencies will consult with Passamaquoddy leaders while developing the plan.