Trout Unlimited study finds trout spawning in the Deerfield River

  • Rainbow trout

For the Bulletin
Thursday, February 01, 2018

A first-of its kind scientific study of the Deerfield River last fall has found that trout are spawning, but that operations at Brookfield Power’s Fife Brook may be hurting the fish population there, according to the Deerfield River Watershed Trout Unlimited study.

“Despite significant daily fluctuations in river water levels, the study uncovered roughly 100 trout … spawning beds, of which 37 contained eggs,” according to the environmental organization. “The study area is in the five-mile stretch of river below Fife Brook Dam.”

That dam, which along with Brookfield’s Bear Swamp Pumped Storage project are undergoing relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, directly impacts the 17-mile section from that dam to the No. 4 Dam in Buckland, the chapter says.

“Sharp fluctuation of daily water releases from the dam creates a challenging environment for trout living in the river,” according to TU, which recently released information about the first phase of its study. “In part, the study will assess the impact of Brookfield’s hydro-peaking operation on spawning attempts and survivorship of eggs laid in the river.”

Brookfield Power declined to comment about the study.

News of the Deerfield River study comes after FERC rejected a temporary license change for FirstLight Power’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage project on the Connecticut River — which is also undergoing relicensing by the federal regulators — because of the discovery of shortnose sturgeon in the river.

Many spawning beds were found to be “de-watered” or partially dry during low-flow periods, according to the environmental organization.

“It is apparent that spawning attempts are being made during higher flows,” it said in a written statement. “Numerous spawning beds were found at least partially exposed to the elements during low flows.”

The spawning study is a first step to determine the extent of trout spawning and what can be done to improve spawning success conditions.