September 22, 2014
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Buckeye Brook herring run ‘disappointing,’ says Earnshaw

It’s a guess, but Department of Environmental Management fishery biologist Phil Edwards is hopeful the buckeyes will return to Buckeye Brook in the numbers seen in the past two years.

Edwards said yesterday that fish runs across the state have been later than usual because of lingering winter weather, and he adds with a note of optimism, “Typically it [Buckeye Brook] has a late start.”

Paul Earnshaw, president of the Buckeye Brook Coalition, isn’t as upbeat.

“I’m really, really disappointed,” he said yesterday.

Earnshaw said that volunteers have been conducting seven counts a day and “we’ve seen hardly any fish coming in.” The highest count for a 10-minute period was 83 fish several weeks ago. Throughout the count, he said, there have been only five sightings of fish.

This contrasts dramatically with last year and 2012. Those two years were considered among the best since the state closed rivers and streams to the taking of herring in 2006. The Buckeye Brook count last year was 90,000. In 2012, it was half that.

“In the last three years we are seeing some of the highest numbers,” reported Edwards. He said that runs at Gilbert Stuart in North Kingstown, Nonquit in Tiverton and Saugatucket in South Kingstown are “very, very strong this week.”

He said he is seeing “beautiful looking fish.”

So, what’s happened at Buckeye Brook?

“It could just be a bad year,” said Edwards.

While the local run is a disappointment thus far this year, the number of volunteers committed to taking the count buoys Earnshaw. He thanked them for their diligence.

In addition to fish spotted at the counting station at the Warwick Avenue culvert, Earnshaw said some spawning activity has been seen near the culvert north of Warwick Pond at the Lakeshore Drive culvert. And contrary to Edwards’ report, Earnshaw said spotters are seeing smaller fish. Usually the runs consist of fish eight to 10 inches long. Some of the fish this year are half that size, which leads him to speculate they could be less than fully mature fish.

“It’s a weird occurrence; the same thing happened three years ago,” he said. Edwards didn’t have an explanation.

Earnshaw said spotters would man the station for another week, but that after that he would be surprised if there was a significant run.

Looking at it from another perspective, Earnshaw reasoned the depressed run could be a “godsend” to the fish.

As part of the extension of the safety area to Runway 34 that will commence after July 1, the Lakeshore Drive culvert will be replaced with a larger system that should improve conditions for those fish swimming further upstream and into Spring Green Pond. However, during construction, Earnshaw said, pumps will be installed to maintain the stream flow. His fear is that they could macerate the herring fry coming out of Spring Green.

Runway 16-34, the crosswind runway, was closed earlier this week but will reopen shortly, Kelly Fredericks, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, said Tuesday. He explained the runway was closed to allow for work on the glycol collection system under construction. The system to collect and recycle the fluid used for the deicing of aircraft is designed to dramatically reduce the runoff of glycol into the Buckeye Brook watershed.

As part of the runway safety area, the end of Runway 34 that is in the book wetlands will need to be excavated of peat and replaced with a firm material. The runway will be closed for that work starting in June.


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