Our readers speak: salmon, muskie, and copper

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29 April 2012

To the Editor:


I would like to compare the above resources as to usefulness, cost, and environmental feasibility

First of all, let’s look at Atlantic salmon and Land Locked Salmon: Atlantic salmon have been in Maine rivers for over 5,000 years or more. In the past 100 years, dams have been built for the betterment of mankind. These structures, however, prevented the salmon from spawning, causing a dramatic reduction in salmon population. Mankind then spent millions of dollars to build fish ways on these dams in an effort to redeem themselves. However they were not very successful except perhaps for the anointed Visie Dam Fish Way. Water pollution also did its share in the demise of Atlantic salmon.

Land locked salmon on the other hand found themselves land locked in Sebago Lake and other unknown Maine lakes after the glazier receded. 110 years ago, the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife saw fit to introduce land locked salmon to other Maine lakes. Unfortunately, this destroyed the native togue population. Nevertheless, this was a huge success. Six and seven pound salmon are currently being caught at the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby but not many togues.

Secondly, let’s look at Muskie. Over 30 years ago, Muskie were introduced into the St. John River cold water fishery watershed. The Province of Quebec took credit for this. However, they claimed it was an accident. Thanks to Mother Nature, this Muskie introduction was a major success much to the chagrin of the IFW. We decided to turn these so called lemons into lemonade and the Fort Kent International Muskie Derby was born. This is proof that Muskie can be worth a lot more than lemons at no cost to the state.

Copper, the third asset. Lately, I have seen in the news that some politicians want to rejuvenate the Bald Mountain Copper Mine. I think it has something to do about an election in November. This site is located about 20 miles due west of Portage Lake. They claim it would create 350 jobs. However in 15 years they would leave us with a 150 acre copper tailings pond. This looks pretty economical at first sight. However there is a problem. This tailing pond is right smack dab in the middle of the headwaters of the Fish River Cain Of Lakes and the Aroostook Salmon River. Now copper mining tailings produce all kinds of heavy metals. This is because the copper ore is crushed into fine powder. It is then mixed with highly alkaline slurry causing the copper to float where it is skimmed off the top. This slurry is then recycled treated and returned to the tailing pond. If I remember right, this alkaline can be really destructive to fish life. These tailings are than covered with four feet of dirt and water to hopefully keep it from interacting with the sun and fresh water or leaching out to ground level. We are told not to worry, but erosion has a way of doing that. Nothing can go wrong there! Now this copper ore is located on the surface as compared to most copper mines, which are located underground. Copper deposits like this are surrounded or wrapped in a gold bearing ore called Gossamer. In this case the gossamer ore is ground and sprayed with cyanide liquid. I believe that this is the same good stuff that Hitler used to kill a million people. It is also the same stuff some states use in gas chambers. Nothing to worry about here! I am sure that responsible people can use that stuff safely.

I was propelled into writing this article because of my experience with these three different assets in the past. Not long ago, I volunteered as president of the International Corporation called Salen. [Salmon enhancement] The purpose was to re-introduce Atlantic salmon into the upper St. John River above Grand Falls, New Brunswick. I used reintroduced because geologist tell us that five thousand years ago, the Grand Falls Gorge did not exist, neither did the falls. The project failed because of politics between the two nations. It would have succeeded if Governor Angus King had kept his promise to send a letter of consent as he said he had promised. However, it never happened. At that time, Governor McKernan appointed me to the Board of Environmental Protection. During my 10-year-term, the copper mining companies where pushing the DEP and BEP to finalize the State Of Maine Mining Rules which we did. During this time the SJARCD steering committee had formed the award winning Take Pride In America Fish River Lakes Water Quality Association. As its president, I was concerned about this mining operation in our head water. I therefor volunteered to be the point man for the BEP and the mining engineers. I worked closely with Boliden Mining, the most likely Co. to do the mining at the time. With these people I learned a lot about copper mining and its dangers to the environment. The price of copper dropped and that was the end of the project. It seems that copper can be mined in the Panama Canal Region without any rules to live by according to Boliden Mining who were willing to try it in Maine anyway had the copper prices not gone south.

After comparing the three assets, it’s a no-brainer that copper and salmon are great economic assets. However, they have been extremely expensive and damaging to the environment which happens when mankind tries to dictate to Mother Nature how to do her work. Their cost benefit ratios have been dismal. Muskie on the other hand, has become an extremely good economic asset. The best part however is that it has not and will not cost a single copper penny. [Pardon my pun.] How is that for a solid cost benefit ratio.

I cannot believe that some Augusta crony capitalist and politicians still want to mine Bald Mountain. I personally do not believe that it can be done safely. Check out Black Hawk mine [aka Kerramerican mine] located next to Second Pond and Carlton Stream in Blue Hill Maine. They and other companies have been mining copper for 125 years. The 53-acre tailing pond is located adjacent to second pond and is currently emitting heavy metals downstream to First Pond, Salt Pond, Blue Hill Bay, and East Penobscot Bay. This was due to the fact that the tailing pond had caused flooding upstream causing a five foot canal to relief the flooding. This, to this day, is exposing down river waters to heavy dose of sulfuric acid .The State of Maine has sued Black Hawk Mining for environmental damage and won a million dollar settlement. To this day the associate mining companies involved appear to be suing each other. [Info retrieved from http://technology.infomine.com/articles/1/1673/glencairn.diligence.]. In conclusion a copper tailing pond in a tidal watershed is one thing. However, having one in the only cold water fishery watershed in Eastern United States is another matter. I will put my money on the Muskie any time.

- Louis Phil Soucy aka ‘Clean Water Phil,’ Past Pres. of SALEN Inc., Past Chairman of the Fish River Lakes Water Quality Assoc., Past Member of the Me. Board Of Environmental Protection [1989-1999], Past Chairman of The St. John Aroostook Resource Conservation & Development Steering Committee.


I remember reading this opinion...

...in the St. John Valley Times a few days ago. Mr. Soucy is on target with regard to copper mining. Thanks for reprinting the opinion for those who do not subscribe to the SJVT.