The Wrack: york river

blog of the wells reserve & laudholm trust

Associated People Tyler Spillane

The spring field season has begun with a 10-week study on migratory fish in the York River. We are collecting data for the Wild and Scenic Study Committee by using fyke nets to sample fish every day.

Rainbow Smelt in the hand. Caught in the York River in early April 2017.We started work in the beginning of April and in the first three weeks caught 2,598 fish, of which 1,228 were spawning rainbow smelt. We recorded the length, weight, and sex of each smelt caught, finding the average fish to be 6.1 inches long and weighing about 1 ounce. More than 87 percent of our catch was male. Males usually arrive first at spawning sites and wait for females. They can also travel up river to spawn more than once during the spawning cycle, while females will swim upstream and spawn in one high tide event.

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Restoring Streams and the Pulse of Tides

Three small projects with outsize impact have been focusing the reserve's attention in this latter half of 2015. Completing these minor feats of engineering will improve the ecology of local watersheds for generations to come. Our science and stewardship team planned for months and years to set up these moments of action on Goff Mill Brook, Branch Brook, and the York River.

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Cover of Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the York River, prepared by the National Park Service, 2013A National Park Service (NPS) survey of the York River completed at the end of 2013 determined that “segments of the York River exhibit free-flowing character and noteworthy natural, cultural, and recreational resource values [and would] likely meet eligibility criteria for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.”

The preliminary findings of the NPS survey validated the efforts of the Friends of the York River, which since 2009 has been working toward getting a law passed by the U.S. Congress that will allow a comprehensive study of the York River. Such a study would determine whether the river's designation under the wild and scenic program is appropriate for the affected towns and the nation.

The 24-page Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the York River examines the natural, cultural, historical, recreational, and scenic resources of the river. It also looks at water flow and quality, protected land, and research studies and assessments. After this preliminary analysis, the NPS found:

…all of the elements for a successful Study process appear to be in place for the York River. The local stakeholders have indicated an interest in pursuing a York River watershed-wide Study approach and the NPS concurs that this would be an appropriate study methodology for the York River. If a Study is authorized by Congress, the NPS believes that the use of the established Partnership Wild and Scenic River Study process, in close cooperation with the towns of Eliot, South Berwick, Kittery and York, the State of Maine, and other local and regional stakeholders would be an effective approach.

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The Friends of the York River received some excellent news last week: The Wild and Scenic Study Bill written and sponsored by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree was unanimously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 5.

The bill calls for a multi-year study of the York River, done in conjunction with community input, that would determine if the river is eligible for designation as a Wild and Scenic Partnership River by the National Park Service. The bill still needs to pass in the Senate before it can become law.

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Associated People Paul Dest

Not long ago, we mentioned the York River Wild and Scenic study bill. Here's an update:

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York River aerial photoOver the past ten years, the Wells Reserve has been especially active along the York River, studying fisheries habitat, identifying pollution sources, educating area residents about riverine and estuarine ecology, and helping protect land in the watershed

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