Gene Chague: Remedy can be worse than damage in rivers

Sunday April 22, 2012


Hurricane Irene caused some devastation in our neck of the woods last year, especially to some of our rivers. The Chickley River in the town of Hawley, along Route 8A, is a prime example.

According to the spring issue of the Backcast, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited's (TU) newsletter, following the storm, the Mass. DEP implemented emergency regulations to allow cleanup and repair of the damaged roads and wetlands covered under the Mass. Wetlands Protection Act. An Emergency Certificate was issued for a short time frame, and permitted clean-up and repair only to prior existing conditions.

The Town of Hawley and its contractors apparently went far beyond the permitted remediation, which was just to restore the road and property. Almost 5 miles of river was dug up by heavy equipment sitting in the riverbed. Specific damage included channeling the river; dramatic alteration of the riverbed stone bottom; piling stone banks to cut off the river from its natural flood plain; lowering the river bed substrate a significant amount in some places; causing silt and heavy clay to empty into the Deerfield River as a "grey soup;" and altering fish habitat to the point of rendering it uninhabitable.

There were allegations that the state and federal governments were notified by individual property owners of the contractor caused damage at an early date. However, it wasn't until members of the Pioneer Valley Chapter of TU photographed the damage, and reported to the Mass. DFW all that was being done to the river, that action was really taken.

A WPA administrative order was issued to cease and desist all work in the area, and a DEP Enforcement Order was issued to retain experts to determine the required level of restoration. Efforts have been begun to remediate the damage under the direction of the Mass. DEP at the same time as hearings are being held to determine "next steps" in the process.

I hate to sound pessimistic, but I seriously doubt that we will see that river return to anything close to normal in our lifetimes.

According to the Backcast editor and chapter president Allen Gray, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to Pioneer Valley TU and to the Mass./R.I. TU Council Chairman Paul Knauth of Hinsdale for their leadership in championing this cause.

Details and photos of this ongoing effort are available on the Mass./R.I. TU Council website at


This year, minors 12-14 years of age who successfully complete the Youth Turkey Hunt Program will be issued a Youth Turkey Hunt permit with two tags. The permit and tags will be valid for both the Youth Turkey Hunt date (next Saturday, April 28) and the regular spring turkey hunting season.

The youth permit and tags are not valid for fall turkey hunting. Four Berkshire County sportsmen's clubs are participating in the Youth Turkey Hunt program: Stockbridge, Lee, Cheshire and East Mountain in Williamstown.

Youth turkey hunters aged 12-17 who successfully completed the Youth Turkey Hunt Program in a previous year and plan to hunt on April 28 must have obtained and submitted a Past Participant Application. The daily bag limit is one bird a day for both the Youth Turkey Hunt date and the duration of the spring turkey hunting season. All other turkey hunting regulations apply to young turkey hunters.

The spring turkey hunting season for adults begins on Monday, April 30, and runs until May 26.


In his most recent report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Andrew Madden, Western District Manager of the DFW, reported that they recently purchased a parcel of land to be known as the North Egremont Wildlife Management Area. The 2.6-acre parcel allows access to the Green River from Rowe Road, and connects to the 22-acre Green River Access Conservation Easement.


Madden will be the featured speaker at the Bushnell-Sage Library on 48 Main Street, Sheffield, on Friday, April 27. The presentation, which begins at 6:30 p.m., is billed as an opportunity to learn about wildlife in your community, from bats and bears to fish and beavers. For more information, call the library at (413) 229-7004.

The Taconic Chapter of TU will have Dana Ohman, DFW Western District Fisheries Biologist, as the guest speaker at its monthly meeting Thursday evening at the Back Nine Bar and Grill at the GEAA on Crane Avenue, Pittsfield. The topic of the presentation will be "Coldwater streams and the Hoosic River Watershed." The presentation is free and open to the public. Social hour begins at 5:15 p.m.; the presentation begins at 6 p.m.; and a $15 buffet starts at 7 p.m. For more information, check the chapter web site at or contact Ron Wojcik at (413) 684-4141.


The following waters were scheduled to be stocked last week: Green River in Alford, Egremont and Great Barrington; Williams River in West Stockbridge and Great Barrington; Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont, and Florida; Westfield River in Worthington, Chester and Middlefield; West Branch Brook in Chesterfield and Worthington; Hoosic River and Hudson Brook in Clarksburg; Little River in Worthington and Huntington; Town Brook in Lanesborough; Natural Bridge Pond in North Adams; Farmington River in Otis and Sandisfield; Trout Brook in Peru; Housatonic River (SW) in Pittsfield; Mill Brook in Plainfield; Westfield Brook and Windsor Brook in Windsor; Bronson Brook in Worthington; and Goose Pond, Laurel Lake, Otis Reservoir, Stockbridge Bowl and Onota Lake.

In my column last week, I mentioned a young fellow who had written an essay for school about why he loves fishing. Unfortunately, I listed his name as Jason Ladouceur, age 16, when it should have read Jacob Ladouceur, age 17. My apologies to Jacob.

To reach Gene Chague:,
(413) 637-1818.


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