My Turn: The right thing to do, the wrong place to do it

For the Monitor
Published: 1/14/2022 7:01:07 AM
Modified: 1/14/2022 7:00:14 AM

The current trend in fish and aquatic ecosystem conservation is that all dams are bad and all should be removed. Since its inception, Native Fish Coalition has challenged this position, as while correct in theory, in practice this is not always the case. Specifically, there are instances where nonnative and stocked fish below a dam pose a greater threat to what lives above it than the dam itself.

A current proposal by The Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund, New Hampshire Fish and Game, New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation, and Trout Unlimited to remove a small dam at the outlet of so-called “Breeder Pond” in Franconia Notch is one of those times when the cure may be worse than the disease.

The status of Breeder Pond and the approximately 1/3 of a mile of stream above it is unknown. Juvenile wild native brook trout have been confirmed by New Hampshire Fish and Game in the raceway below the dam, and are as likely to have come from above as below. Per NHFG, the pond “…likely has a small population of wild [native brook] trout.”

Breeder Pond is just upstream of Profile Lake. Profile Lake is heavily stocked with large brook trout. The lake is also home to a self-sustaining population of nonnative yellow perch. Breeder Pond is not stocked, nor has it been in decades. Per NHFG, “There are [no yellow perch] in the Breeder Pond as we speak…”

There is no plan or intention to try to eradicate the yellow perch prior to removing the dam, nor any plans to suspend stocking on Profile Lake to create a self-sustaining fishery. The stated goal is “education,” or so people can watch stocked fish go through the motions of spawning.

NFC is concerned that removing the dam will allow stocked and nonnative fish access to Breeder Pond and the stream above, water they are not found in today. All nonnative species introductions and stocking negatively impact the ecosystem to some degree, and in some cases a high degree.

With no intention of suspending stocking on Profile Lake, the benefits of the project are unclear. Deliberately allowing nonnative perch to access water they do not have access to today is ecologically unsound. In this case, the negative impacts of removing the dam outweigh any positive gains. The money and effort would be much better spent elsewhere.

(Nick Martin is chair of the New Hampshire chapter of Native Fish Coalition.)

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