On June 24, Gov. Charlie Baker and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton joined anglers and state and local officials at the McLaughlin Fish Hatchery in Belchertown. This was for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the construction of a nearly mile-long water pipeline and hydropower turbine that will supply six million gallons of water daily to the hatchery, produce renewable energy and reduce the hatchery's electric demand.
The McLaughlin Hatchery is located near the Swift River and is the largest of five MassWildlife trout hatcheries. It is responsible for half of the state's entire annual trout production (approximately 225,000 pounds), with a "retail value" exceeding $2 million.
The hatchery operation includes an egg-hatching and fry-rearing facility, producing nearly 750,000 fry (very young fish), which are then distributed to the other state hatcheries to grow large enough to stock. A staff fish pathologist monitors fish health and water quality for this and the other hatcheries to ensure high quality fish production. Fish raised at the McLaughlin Hatchery are stocked in nearly 500 rivers, streams, lakes and ponds throughout Massachusetts.
According to MassWildlife, water for the hatchery is currently pumped uphill from the Swift River to the hatchery, resulting in annual electricity costs of approximately $60,000. Leaves, snow, ice and other debris from the river can block the intake screens and impede water flow to the pumps. If the water flow is blocked, the pumps automatically shut down to prevent damage and hatchery staff must respond within minutes to prevent disruption to hatchery operations.
During the summer, when the Quabbin Reservoir discharges surface water into the Swift River, water temperatures can exceed 72 degrees Fahrenheit, creating potential problems for the hatchery, including fish mortality, disease and parasite outbreaks. Warm water temperatures lead to decreased dissolved oxygen levels and increased stress for the fish, resulting in lower fish growth rates. Administratively, decreased dissolved oxygen levels and warm water temperatures trigger water quality discharge permit concerns.
The new pipeline project will tap water from the Chicopee Valley Aqueduct and provide the McLaughlin Hatchery with a reliable, gravity-fed source of cold water, eliminating the environmental/biological risks associated with the water withdrawal from the Swift River. The result is an energy cost savings of $60,000 per year.
The project also includes installation of a hydropower turbine on the pipeline. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) has received a grant to fully cover the cost of the hydropower unit, which will generate almost $53,000 in annual revenue for the MWRA. According to MassWildlife, this project is a win-win scenario for the MWRA, the hatchery and the Commonwealth.
The estimated completion cost, including construction, is $4.4 million with an estimated completion date of the end of 2016 or early 2017.
MOUNTAIN TRAIL UPGRADES
By now, you probably know about the proposed mountain trail upgrades on Pittsfield State Forest and October Mountain State Forest, which were recently proposed by the DCR. Reporter Dick Lindsay wrote an excellent article about them in the Wednesday issue of The Berkshire Eagle titled "DCR reveals plans for trail upgrades," and there is little I can add.
I should emphasize that the DCR is serious about closing, blocking or naturalizing certain illegal off road vehicle trails. They intend to monitor them and immediately close any re-opened trails or new trails. They intend to install wildlife cameras and engage DCR Rangers and Environmental Police in sting operations. They are especially concerned with the illegal trails in the Sykes Mountain area of October Mountain State Forest, north of New Lenox Road. A word to the wise, they can also follow those illegal trails to their origination points.
They intend to enhance public information, education and signage to raise awareness of illegal trail issues and impacts. However, they will work cooperatively with willing stakeholders to create new approved connections, maintain legal trails and monitor trail networks.
The draft plan and accompanying maps are available for viewing on the DCR website. A hard copy is available for review at the DCR West Regional Headquarters on South Street in Pittsfield. Public comments on the draft plan will be received until Aug. 1 online or by writing to the DCR.
QUABBIN CONTROLLED DEER HUNT
Applications for the 2016 Quabbin Controlled Deer Hunt are now available at the DCR deer hunt website (www.mass.gov/dcr/deerhunt). Completed applications must be submitted by Aug. 15 to be eligible for the lottery drawing in September. Beginning this year, all applications must be submitted online and there is no longer an application fee.
Applicants can use any computer with internet access, including those at public libraries, to complete the application form. During the application period, staff at the Quabbin Visitor Center (485 Ware Road, Belchertown) will be available to assist hunters with the online application on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon and Wednesdays from noon to 3 p.m.
The 2016 controlled hunt will occur during the state shotgun season in the Pelham, New Salem, Petersham and Prescott sections of the Quabbin Reservation. Applicants may apply in groups with a minimum of two hunters, up to a maximum of six hunters, on each application.
On Sept. 7, approximately 1,100 permits will be drawn based upon hunter's license numbers and successful applicants will receive written notification from the DCR by early October.
For more information, call the Quabbin Visitor Center at (413) 323-7221.
TRUCKLOAD OF GOODIES RAFFLE WINNERS
Karen Kruszyna, spokesperson for the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, recently announced the winners of its Summer Sizzler Raffle. They are: First Prize winner of the whole truckload — Angela Swistak of Cheshire, 2nd Prize — Missie Baker of Hancock, 3rd Prize — Rick Moffett of Adams, 4th Prize — Carol Daniels of Cheshire and 5th Prize — Ashley Yarmey of Hinsdale.
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: (413) 637-1818