Misunderstanding Halts Alewives Harvest in Surry

SURRY — A misunderstanding involving the Department of Transportation (DOT) and a local fisherman brought an abrupt halt to what would have been Surry’s first alewives harvest in 30 years.

Last week, under an order from the DOT, Darrell Young dismantled the hoist, walkways and platforms he had assembled in Patten Stream, before the actual harvest got under way.

Young, who lives in Waltham and also harvests alewives in Franklin under a contract with the town, said he had an oral agreement with a DOT official to construct harvesting equipment at the bridge spanning Patten Stream on Route 172 near the village center in Surry.

He said the permission from the DOT followed conversations he had with the official on or about April 25.

Following the annual Town Meeting in Surry on April 25, Young was awarded the contract to harvest alewives, based on his efforts over the past several years to improve the alewives run in Surry and to help craft a long-term plan for the local fishery.

Young said he started to set up the harvesting equipment in Patten Stream on May 13 when he received a site visit from the DOT official he had dealt with earlier. The official said the structure was not exactly what had been discussed, according to Young.

Young said he was told to contact another DOT official, who told him he needed a licensed engineer to certify the steel pole he had attached to the bridge abutment and would use to hoist alewives to the road surface.

According to Young, the time and expense of a full-blown engineer’s design was prohibitive. He said the engineer he had contacted called the DOT about satisfying the requirement and was told to send photos and a drawing of the proposed temporary construction.

“I don’t know what happened,” Young said, “but Tuesday [May 17] they said I need to get the pole out by Friday, or else the DOT will haul it out.”

Young contacted state Rep. Ralph Chapman (D-Brooksville), whose legislative district includes the town of Surry.

Chapman said he contacted John Buxton, a bridge engineer with the DOT.

“My impression was that Mr. Young had intended to fish the stream near the bridge and called the DOT for permission to set something up,” Chapman said. “Permission was granted; then it was referred to someone who deals with bridges.”

That’s when Young was told he would need to get an engineer to provide certified drawings.

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James Straub

Reporter at Ellsworth American
Former Ellsworth American reporter James Straub covered the towns on Deer Isle and the Blue Hill Peninsula. He lives in Brooklin.