Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
 
Photo of a volunteer stocking fry in the Sawmill River - Photo credit:  Draper White
Photo of a volunteer stocking fry in the Sawmill River. Credit: Draper White

The Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission solicited comments on the draft revision of the Strategic Plan for the Restoration of Atlantic Salmon to the Connecticut River through four public information meetings, the Internet, and direct mailings. Plans were also made available for review at many local libraries. Over 400 hard copies of the draft Plan were distributed for comment. Additionally, over 1,500 people visited the Web site where the Plan was served, with over 250 of them actually taking the time to look at the Plan.

A variety of comments were received from about 50 respondents. These ranged from simple editorial corrections and clarifications of factual information to recommendations for increased innovation and change in Program direction. Generally, those who commented provided insight on perceived benefits and problems and frequently suggested specific actions or directions to address those issues.

The Draft Strategic Plan Subcommittee reviewed all of the comments, keyed them to appropriate references in the draft Plan, and developed recommended responses for the Commissioners to review and approve.

Particular attention was given to comments that spelled out specific recommendations for actions or Program direction. Frequently, public proposals broached topics that had been discussed and even debated in the course of developing the draft Plan. The draft Plan was designed to provide comprehensive direction to the Program. There remains some confusion among the public as to both the specificity appropriate to the Plan and the role of the Action Plan in the implementation of the Strategic Plan. Flexibility was intentionally built into the long-term goals, objectives, and strategies described in the draft Plan. This can be explained when the Action Plan process is finalized, publicized, and implemented.

A summary of the comments and responses follows:

Comments Plan Reference CRASC Response
Editorial comments and updates Various sections CRASC has reviewed the editorial comments and made appropriate changes.
Let sea runs have run of river Goal 4 CRASC agrees to this concept: Strategic Plan calls for increased releases in Strategy 4.A.1; adults are being released experimentally in the Westfield River; but, releasing all returns would be irresponsible while we are still developing river specific broodstock genetics.
Stock Passumpsic River with fish native to the region Goal 4 CRASC agrees to this concept: Atlantic salmon are native to the Passumpsic; Strategic Plan includes a strategy (Strategy 4.G.4) that would permit a broodstock fishery; and, broodstock fisheries currently exist outside the river in CT, MA and VT; stocking other native fishes is outside the scope of this Plan and is the role of state fishery management agencies.
Stock excess domestics into streams for fishing Goal 4 CRASC agrees to this concept: Strategic Plan includes a strategy (Strategy 4.G.4) that would permit a broodstock fishery; and, broodstock fisheries currently exist outside the river in CT, MA and VT.
Conduct an independent assessment of the project Outside the scope of this document CRASC deems this unnecessary and outside the purpose of the revised Plan: the Program is a cooperative effort already deriving input from at least 7 state and federal agencies throughout the watershed, researchers from throughout the nation, and professionals outside this Program but within the U.S. Atlantic Salmon Assessment Committee; Public Commissioners are appointed by the Governors to serve citizen interests on the Commission; the public has always been welcome to participate in CRASC and Technical Committee meetings as well as through comment solicitations like this one; CRASC has demonstrated an intent to constantly improve the Restoration Program and has included Goal 5 to ensure that the process will invite change; CRASC members and advisors have demonstrated technical competence; funds are limited and must be expended efficiently; and, the Plan provides a comprehensive vision for the future.
Better define goals and time lines Various sections CRASC agrees on the need for specific goals and means for evaluation of accomplishments; many of the goals and objectives of the Plan are specific and measurable. It is equally valid to recognize that all goals cannot be easily evaluated or enumerated. The Action Plan will be focused more on short-term accomplishments and will necessarily be more specific, tangible and measurable.
Take care not to bias public opinion/support in future surveys Goal 6 CRASC agrees that public surveys should be professionally conducted; Strategy 6.A.1 makes reference to the need for a public survey.
Enhance local fishery habitats Goal 2 CRASC recognizes the need for protecting and enhancing salmon habitat in Strategies 2.A, 2.B, and 2.C; these efforts also benefit other resident fish species; protection of habitat solely for other species is outside the scope of this Plan and is the role of state fishery management agencies.
Provide local economic uplift through increased recreational use of river (for anglers) by the people of the Northeast Kingdom and visitors Program Summary & Goal 4 CRASC agrees to this concept: One of the long-term goals of the program is a fishery; the Strategic Plan includes a strategy (Strategy 4.G.4) that would permit a broodstock fishery; and, broodstock fisheries currently exist outside the river in CT, MA and VT (in Lakes Seymour and Willoughby in VT); and, economic studies have shown the potential value of restoring salmon to New England rivers to be $2-4 billion.
Eliminate water quality and physical barriers to migratory fish passage and reproduction in the Ashuelot River and tributaries Goal 2 CRASC supports and promotes habitat protection and enhancement (Objectives 2.A, 2.B, and 2.C); interim fish passage is available on all 3 of the Ashuelot's dams with final facilities under design; CRASC has no authority to set water quality standards for the states.
Add redear sunfish to species list Table 3 CRASC recognizes the redear sunfish as a new resident species in the Connecticut River basin.
Accept assistance from Trout Unlimited to stock fry and recruit stockers; involve the Vermont Chapters of the National Audubon Society; use the Student Conservation Association as a source of inexpensive assistance Goals 1 & 6 CRASC acknowledges need and gratefully accepts support and assistance from non-governmental organizations and individuals in accomplishing the Program goals.
Stress striped bass & shad success to counter Program cost argument Program Summary CRASC participates in the basin's shad restoration program much of which drove the need for fish passage below Bellows Falls; activities conducted for salmon have benefitted shad and other species resulting in great fishing, especially below Turners Falls.
Major improvements in fish passage and increased fry stocking have not improved adult returns Program Summary CRASC agrees that realization of projected return results has been frustrated despite successes at increasing fish passage efficiency and at approaching fry stocking goals; we have yet to realize the benefit of these improvements since impacted year classes have not yet returned; also these are not the only controlling factors: other things like marine survival and predation impact run sizes.
Evaluate temperature tolerance in cage tests for smolts Goal 5 CRASC and its member agencies do not have a direct research role in their mission but can recommend research to benefit the Restoration Program; CRASC has reviewed studies conducted in the past by USGS/BRD on this subject; needs for additional research will be forwarded to BRD for additional consideration.
Evaluate water quality relative to freshwater survival Goal 5 CRASC and its member agencies do not have a direct research role in their mission but can recommend research to benefit the Restoration Program; CRASC will refer needs for research to USGS/BRD for consideration.
Include a map with dams, river miles Appendix G CRASC recognizes the value of such maps and has added an appendix, Appendix J, with an additional map to the Plan; additionally the Connecticut River Coordinator has printed a very detailed report depicting basin dams "The Status of Migratory Fish Passage and Barriers to Passage in the Connecticut River Watershed"; the report is available upon request.
Keep the information coming Goal 6 CRASC recognizes the importance of public support for the Program and has increased public outreach even serving the draft Plan on the Internet; a specific strategy (Strategy 6.B.1) has been developed to further such initiatives.
CRASC should provide an accounting of all money spent on the Program to date including state, federal, and industry expenditures Outside the scope of this document CRASC recognizes the importance of public review and accountability. It remains to be understood that costs for fish passage are not borne by tax payers. CRASC cannot account for these non-member expenditures. The majority of state agency expenditures are derived from specific user taxes not general income tax. Only federal activities are borne by the tax payer. Both state and federal government agency expenditures are difficult to attribute solely to the salmon program as both state and federal agencies have worked simultaneously to restore both the aquatic environment and depleted populations of other migratory species including American shad.
Describe links with the Silvio O. Conte NFWR N/A CRASC agrees that the refuge and its role through its legal mandate to restore anadromous fish should be mentioned as a key change in the basin since the 1982 Plan was written. Lines to this effect will be added to the Program Summary.
Identify impact of NEPCO sale on goals, objectives, and agreements Outside the scope of this document Impacts of utility divestiture are unknown though CRASC has been assured that passage agreements and requirements have been made known and were transferred as part of the purchase commitment.
Focus efforts below high dams; evaluate need and options for downstream fish passage at high dams prior to establishing a construction requirement at these facilities; conduct no expansion of stocking in Northern tributaries above Fifteen Mile Falls Goals 1 & 5 CRASC has traditionally focused Program efforts on areas below the Fifteen Mile Falls projects. To date, only 0.15% of the stocked salmon have been stocked above these dams despite the fact that the salmon's historical range extended to Stewartston. Limited hatchery production capabilities precluded expansion until the domestic program was initiated at White River NFH. Even with White River, fry production falls short of the Program goal. Consequently, the focus has been on maximizing utilization of habitat below Fifteen Mile Falls. It has been CRASC's intent to stock all available habitat in the basin since the Program was initiated in 1967. Only through utilization of all available habitat can adult returns be maximized. Interim downstream fish passage is currently in place at McIndoes Falls and the Fifteen Mile Falls agreement requires construction of permanent facilities at McIndoes. The agreement also calls for studies to determine passage needs at the other dams. It is in CRASC's best interest to see that these studies are conducted to determine the merits of passage before establishing if passage is warranted. Per agreement, these studies have been initiated. Details specific to a dam or a tributary will be placed in the Action Plan (to be developed).
Prioritize and target efforts to those areas that will be most productive and cost effective Goal 5 CRASC has long recognized the need for focus on a project of the magnitude of this Program. Objectives 5.A.2, 5.A.3, and 5.A.4 are designed to ensure that Program activities are evaluated, monitored, and altered as needed to achieve the mission.
Assess impact of stocking salmon on existing fisheries and vice versa especially with respect to impact on recreational benefits of existing fishery Program Summary, Goal 5 CRASC agrees that additional information should be included in the Plan. Native species in the basin have been greatly altered by human activities. The only two original salmonid species are Atlantic salmon and brook trout. All other salmonids have been introduced and are not native to the Connecticut River. Studies have shown that competition is minimal with regard to existing fisheries (trout) from stocking salmon and vice versa though additional research may be warranted. Management of resident fisheries is the role of state fishery management agencies and is outside the scope of this document.
Identify potential/available spawning habitat in the tributaries to promote cooperative habitat conservation Goals 2 & 6 CRASC recognizes the importance of habitat and public protection of habitat. Habitat conservation is a key element to the restoration of Atlantic salmon (Goal 2). Salmon habitat is generally identified in Appendix B (Table 2 & Figure 1). Protection of habitat necessitates support and cooperation from the public and this is emphasized in Strategies 2.A.4 and 2.A.5, and 6.B.4. Specifics are generally available in various reports and publications but will be emphasized in the Action Plan.
Cite references N/A CRASC elected to omit cumbersome citations in the Plan (which primarily served Program biologists) and instead developed a more public friendly document.
Provide a review of scientific work conducted 1982-1997 Outside the scope of this document CRASC member agencies have limited research capabilities and rely heavily on academic researchers and outside agencies (USGS). Summaries of research conducted are provided annually in the U.S. Atlantic Salmon Assessment Committee Report. The 1997 report is available on the Internet (www.fws.gov/cneafp/index.html).
Cite assumptions and plans to test their validity Various sections CRASC does not deem this prudent. This revision was developed as a comprehensive plan to guide the Program in recognition of the many variables that impact results. Many assumptions made in the 1982 Plan were based on best available information, often erroneously. Today, CRASC recognizes that many variables remain unknown defying reasonable assumptions. Consequently, various benchmarks are necessarily less specific (quantifiable) than those in the previous revision.
Exclude recreational fishing from the mission statement Executive Summary, Program Mission CRASC disagrees with this recommendation.
Resume use of out-of-basin stocks Goal 1 CRASC has recognized a potential benefit and has established a strategy (1.D.3) to determine the need for importing donor stocks to improve genetic variability and correct a skew in the sex ratio. Population size is adequate and does not dictate a need for donor stocks at this time.
Evaluate application of NESA's single river theory Various sections CRASC has incorporated positive aspects of the single river theory into the Plan. Example includes release of broodstock and sea runs in the Westfield River with subsequent success in natural spawning.
Focus efforts on limiting factors that can be addressed including eradicating non-native predators Various sections CRASC already focuses on factors that can be addressed including freshwater habitat restoration and stock enhancement. Eradicating non-native predators is not a viable option given the many changes to the fish community and environment. Localized control measures for such predators is the role of state fishery management agencies.
Acknowledge fish passage improvements at Northfield and Holyoke; and, acknowledge benefits of and access to sampling stations at Cabot and Holyoke Program Summary, Goal 2 CRASC acknowledges the cooperation and genuine commitment of the utilities including NUSCO and NEPCO to the restoration of salmon in the Connecticut River. The big dam owners play a particularly important role on the mainstem and some tributaries: making great effort, in good faith, sometimes at great expense, to ensure that the Program can succeed. Modification of text in the Program Summary and Goal 2 will generally provide additional acknowledgment of this special relationship.
Restoration definition needs work Program Summary CRASC has noted this comment.
Include rivers below Holyoke in plan for sea run releases when releases exceed 10% at Holyoke Goal 4 CRASC recognizes the need for flexibility in managing sea run releases and offers this general option in Strategy 4.A.1. Nothing in this strategy precludes releases below Holyoke. Specific release plans are more appropriately expected in the Action Plan.
Basin description should reference geographic applicability; include life stage definitions and cite references in life history section Appendix B & C CRASC is providing a brief, public friendly summary of basin characteristics and salmon life history rather than a definitive scientific treatise. In a document of this kind, it is necessary to strike a balance between detail and readability. Life history definitions are included in Figure 2.
Free flowing rivers should be identified, emphasized and protected; include the Sawmill as a priority river Appendix B & Goal 2 CRASC agrees. Free flowing rivers including the Sawmill River are identified as priority rivers in Appendix B.
Impetus for the expansion of the Holyoke fishlift was shad Program Summary CRASC agrees. A text change has been made to reflect this fact.
Volunteers should be recognized as integral to the egg production program Goal 1 CRASC recognizes the value and necessity of volunteers to the hatchery production program, the need to coordinate and communicate information to ensure that volunteers and cooperating agencies are available to get the job done Strategy 1.A.6.
Provide annual reports addressing pre-established budget and Program milestones Goal 7 CRASC recognizes the need to establish public accountability in Strategies 7.B.3, 7.B.5, and 7.B.6. Many reports are already completed annually (including Federal Aid reports and the U.S. Atlantic Salmon Assessment Committee Report). Consideration will be given to producing an annual report for the Program.
Salmon bycatch in the commercial shad fishery should be better addressed Goal 3 CRASC has reviewed the impact of the shad fishery on returning salmon and concluded that this is not a great threat. A text change will be included in the narrative indicating that bycatch monitoring is limited but not conducted scientifically.
Speed of post-smolt movement, as described, is misleading Appendix C CRASC agrees that available evidence is sparse and has made a text change to generalize the time required for salmon to reach the west coast of Greenland.
Repeat spawners and grilse provide a buffer for all sources of mortality Appendix C CRASC has noted this point.
The title of Appendix D could be improved Appendix D CRASC agrees. The title has been changed to A History of Atlantic Salmon in the Connecticut River and Status of the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program@
From 1992-1995, Westfield River returns were netted below the DSI dam, there was no fishway or trap at that time Table 4 CRASC agrees. A footnote has been added to the table.
It is unclear what the value of the 13 listed rivers is in Goal 2 Goal 2 CRASC agrees and has provided a text change in the Goal 2 narrative below the list of 13 tributaries to indicate that natural spawning is also anticipated in several smaller tributaries and below the first barrier on some larger tributaries.
Text should indicate that downstream fish passage has been constructed at some tributary dams Goal 5 CRASC agrees. A text change has been made in the narrative for Goal 5.
Figure 4 should be extended through smolt year 1993 Figure 4 CRASC disagrees. Data is unavailable.
Provide more detail on how the Plan will be implemented through the Action Plan - timetable, public involvement, etc. Executive Summary CRASC disagrees. The Action Plan process has not been finalized. Once this Plan is finalized, the next planning process will be developed with a timetable for completion and future revisions.
Increase opportunity for natural selection in development of broodstock by collecting future broodstock from streams as 1+ parr Goal 1 CRASC has noted this comment for future consideration. This process may be useful in addressing the existing skewed sex ratio. The drawback is that only about 10% of the stocked fry are of the preferred sea run origin.
Amend the license for Northfield to require seasonal safe passage Outside the scope of this document CRASC is currently working cooperatively with NUSCO to resolve passage concerns at this site. Regulatory authority will only be used as a last resort.
Pro-actively participate and promote the Program, volunteer, and education opportunities to increase support and available volunteer assistance Goal 6 CRASC agrees that public support and involvement is important to the Program.
Link agencies and NGOs to schools through education programs Goal 6 CRASC agrees. Linking efforts is the part of Strategy 6.B.4. Educational activities are already linked in Connecticut to the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Association, in Massachusetts to Trout Unlimited, and in Vermont to the Quebec Labrador Foundation.
Scientific lingo is unclear, define escapement, released, and escaped Various sections CRASC will review and add definitions to the text as needed.
Fishways should be operated through all seasons to ensure that seasonal runs are not excluded Goal 2 CRASC agrees. Fishways should be operated through a broad window of time extending past that when returns are seen in Connecticut and at the Holyoke dam. Currently, fishways are not operated at Turners Falls or Vernon in the fall. Studies planned on the Deerfield River may help shed light on this issue. Off-season operation of fishways may also benefit other resident and migratory species like sturgeon and freshwater mussels.
Looking for research results and plans for the future on the Westfield River Outside the scope of this document CRASC agrees that research results should be available. Currently, summaries are provided in the U.S. Atlantic Salmon Assessment Committee Report. This information might also be included in the proposed Annual Report, currently under CRASC consideration.
Provide a tour of the Conte Research Center, fishway and hatchery to the Westfield River watershed Association; make authorized public access to the fishway available at DSI Outside the scope of this document CRASC agrees that public awareness is an important objective (Goal 6). Specific activities will be addressed in the Action Plan. Appointments are best arranged directly with facility supervisors.
Want a canned educational program with respect to the Restoration Program Goal 6 CRASC agrees. Curricula are currently available from the Atlantic Salmon Federation (Fish Friends) and The USFWS (Adopt-A-Salmon). Specifics are appropriate to the Action Plan.
Want more meetings like the public info meeting, and better press coverage Goal 6 CRASC agrees.
Want more public involvement Goal 6 CRASC agrees and encourages public interest and participation.
Want follow-up meeting to the public information meeting N/A CRASC disagrees. The summary of comments and responses will be provided to all who commented in writing on the Plan. It will also be provided as an appendix to the final Plan.
Want to see agency and CRASC Commissioners at these meetings N/A CRASC acknowledges this point.
Initiate more education programs (grades 7-12) in cooperation with the Conte NFWR Goal 6 CRASC agrees. This point will be discussed with Refuge staff when the Action Plan is developed.
Post fish passage data on the Internet Goal 6 CRASC agrees. This information is currently available at the Connecticut River Coordinator's Web site (http://www.fws.gov/r5crc).
Get kids involved Goal 6 CRASC agrees. Specifics are appropriate to the Action Plan.
Define how the fry stocking target was selected Goals 1, 2, & 5 CRASC answers this question in the Plan. Salmon habitat has been identified using field assessments and estimates. Based on the total available habitat, and averaged stocking density, a total fry stocking target of 10 million fry was calculated (Goals 1 & 2). This target may be adjusted up or down as additional and new habitat is stocked and juvenile survival assessed (Goal 5). It is necessarily a dynamic target based on best available information.
Define whether CRASC's policy on opposing new dam construction is new or a continuation of an old policy Goal 2 CRASC addresses this issue twice in the Plan - once in Objective 2.B for upstream passage and again in Objective 2.C for downstream passage. This is an ongoing objective and confirmation of an existing policy.
Include a strategy in Goal 3 to address the New England Fishery Management Council's Atlantic Salmon Fishery Management Plan Goal 3 CRASC agrees. Text will be changed to include a strategy under Objective 3.A (3.A.5) supporting the Council's fishery prohibition in federal waters (3-12 miles).
How will the broodstock release strategy defined in Strategy 4.A.1 work Goal 4 CRASC has provided a table for projecting broodstock allocations given various run sizes in Strategy 4.A.1. Since total run cannot be known until the end of the run, retention and release is a dynamic process keyed to various run caps at 333, 450, 600, and 1600 returns. The figures are incremental. The targets may be adjusted once the Plan is implemented as appropriate to meet Program needs.
Combine Objectives 4.A and 4.B Goal 4 CRASC has noted this comment.
Recreational opportunities noted in Objective 4.D may be associated by the public only with recreational fishing unless there is better definition Goal 4 CRASC has noted this comment. Strategies listed under Objective 4.D and benefits defined in the Program Summary should preclude misunderstanding by the public.
Include a strategy in Goal 5 to use data from monitoring, evaluation and research to implement needed changes in the Program Goal 5 CRASC agrees. Additional text will be provided to address this concern in a strategy. This text may be transferred directly from Strategy 7.A.3.
The single strategy identified under Objective 6.C may be inadequate since there may be other opportunities for involving the public Goal 6 CRASC agrees. This is a good comment meriting further consideration and perhaps better definition derived directly from the public.
Draft lacks time frames, resource needs, and priorities for each objective N/A CRASC is aware that the Plan is general under some goals though it is more specific under other goals. The Plan is written to provide long-term and visionary guidance for comprehensive planning and decision making. Further, recognition is given to those areas over which we have little control (sea survival, predation...) and which necessarily remain less specific. Timing, resource needs, and priorities will all be more clearly addressed in the Action Plan.
Change the title N/A CRASC disagrees with a need for a title change.
Some Program objectives have been achieved and should not be included in the Plan N/A CRASC has included both ongoing and needed objectives in the Plan. Annual accomplishment reporting should be keyed to the Plan through an Action Plan. The Action Plan will define measurable goals and objectives against which progress should be evaluated on an ongoing basis.
Program changes and accomplishments should be evaluated in this Plan N/A CRASC developed this document by revising the 1982 Plan. This Plan does not depart significantly in substance from that Plan but differences are briefly summarized in the Introduction and Program Summary.
A Strategic Plan should be developed for each goal addressing timing, resource needs and priorities N/A CRASC agrees and has already identified the need to develop an Action Plan and process to address this need.
Upstream passage and Program activities are warranted at Fifteen Mile Falls as salmon numbers rebound Goal 2 CRASC agrees. Furthermore, this is built into the Fifteen Mile Falls Settlement Agreement.
A strategy should be added: Provide information on methods to enhance, maintain and protect habitat - target municipal land use commissions in priority tributaries Goal 2 CRASC agrees with this concept. It may be implemented through outreach (Goal 6) and/or technical assistance (Goal 2).
Include land use concerns in the issues and challenges. Goal 5 CRASC agrees.
Clarify origin of hatchery smolts, with they be derived from CT River stocks? Goal 1 CRASC recognizes the need to develop a CT River stock of salmon adapted specifically to this river system and is striving to attain this goal. CRASC will do everything necessary to maintain and improve the CT River stock even if this means importing gametes from outside this basin to maintain and improve genetic variability of CT River stocks.
Promote value and use of partnerships as a component of fisheries conservation efforts Goals, 2, 5, & 6 CRASC agrees.
Educate the public on the benefits of the Program beyond just getting fish back and educate anglers on the benefits to the angling community Goal 6 CRASC agrees. The Action Plan should cite specific actions to this end.
Identify critical salmon habitat to facilitate protection through partnerships Goal 2 CRASC agrees. The Action Plan should cite specific actions to this end.

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Last updated: September 13, 2010
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