There's been a new development in the controversy over the restoration of alewives into the St. Croix River watershed on the border of Maine and New Brunswick.
A month ago, I wrote an extensive story in the Maine Sunday Telegram on the debate over the fish's future, which pit lobstermen, marine fishermen, environmentalists, the Passamaquoddy Indians, Canada, and the preponderance of scientific evidence against smallmouth bass fishing guides, who fear the alewives will harm the non-native game fish they rely on for their livelihood. Amazingly, the guides have had their way so far, convincing legislators to pass laws in 1995 and 2008 that bar the fish from traversing fishways at dams in the lower river.
The day after the story came out, the U.S. EPA directed Maine to let the fish into the river and declared the 1995 and 2008 "Alewife Laws" to be in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. After that, the offices of Attorney General William Schneider, Governor Paul LePage, and the U.S EPA's New England office all went silent, refusing to respond to requests for information about their positions or when they intended to declare what they were.
Today, we finally got answers from Schneider, who sent a letter to the EPA. As you can read in my story in today's Portland Press Herald, the Attorney General essentially told the EPA their decision had no relevance (which may come as a surprise to the federal agency), but that Gov. LePage had decided on his own to back a partial alewife restoration plan put together by an international body charged with resolving conflicts on the St. Croix.