ELLSWORTH — A fish kill event was observed July 27 at the Union River Dam.
Brett Ciccotelli, a biologist with the Downeast Salmon Federation, was at the site that afternoon and spotted large numbers of dead and injured juvenile alewives.
“You could see, based on the injuries to the fish, that they had been battered around,” said Ciccotelli, who saw the fish passing by on the shoreline near the Ellsworth Public Library.
Brookfield Renewable Partners LP., the company that operates the dam, stated that it had taken necessary precautions to reduce potential harm to migrating fish.
In an email Wednesday, Samantha Edwards, manager of stakeholder relations for Brookfield, said staff at the dam conducting a shoreline survey Friday morning “did not observe any sign of out-migration or mortalities.”
Edwards added that once reports of fish mortalities were received that afternoon, the dam’s outmigration procedure was followed.
“We initiated a temporary shutdown of procedure of all generating units,” Edwards said via email. “Throughout the weekend, we continued to conduct shoreline surveys and observed a total of less than 20 alewives on shore. We also enacted a second voluntary shutdown of the generating units to allow a pulse of juvenile alewives to migrate downstream on Saturday.”
On Friday, Ciccotelli speculated that rainfall earlier in the week may have triggered the migration of alewives.
The passage of fish through the dam has been an issue surrounding its federal license renewal, which is currently under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Edwards stated that Brookfield has been “working closely with regulatory agencies on fish passage improvements for the Ellsworth Hydroelectric Project, which we will start implementing upon issuance of the new operating license.”