41 posts

EPA Implicates Fracking in Groundwater Contamination in Wyoming


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has for the first time implicated hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in groundwater contamination. Though hardly the last word on this increasingly common practice for extracting natural gas from the ground, and not a blanket indictment of the practice, it is a significant finding. This whole issue is heating up in the east, with Pennsylvania and New York at the center of what has become a well-known controversy in the Marcellus shale region.

My own view is that while it may be possible to do hydraulic fracturing safely in a lot of places, there have been so many allegations of energy companies contaminating groundwater and dumping the wastewater from fracking operations irresponsibly that it’s hard to feel confident about how safe it is. And I still don’t feel comfortable hearing from these companies that there is no reason to worry about the millions of gallons of water and toxic fluids being injected into each gas well since, as they claim, these fluids are put so far below the water table that this stuff will never find its way back up to contaminate our groundwater.

How many times have we heard from companies, “Trust us, it’s safe,” only to find out years later how wrong they were. Once groundwater is contaminated, it’s not easily cleaned up. We don’t even know where a lot of this water goes once it seeps into the ground. We don’t have extensive maps of underground reservoirs and waterways. How can anyone guarantee the safety of the waters we drink and fish without understanding this in much greater detail?

Be circumspect about all this. The brook trout that rely on all this groundwater are watching closely!

Patagonia: Have a Snack, Save a Species

Salmon Fishing

Patagonia is getting into the salmon jerky business. Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s owner and founder, explains:

“The Patagonia Provisions Salmon Project is our effort to change the fishing industry, the same way we’ve changed how we make our clothes. Our goal is to create a new model that demonstrates how selectively harvesting salmon is not only possible, but good business, and can help protect the future of wild salmon.”

I admire Chouinard’s approach to business. He has certainly changed the way many companies manufacture their products. Organic cotton, recycled fleece, his 1% for the Planet initiative and many other efforts are all business innovations. Let’s hope people get the message about salmon before it’s too late.


Shenandoah National Park Water Issues

Here is an interesting article about the concern over groundwater in Rappahannock county, Virginia and in nearby Shenandoah National Park. Note that the link is through the Piedmont Environmental Council website and unfortunately links to the Rappahannock News’ electronic news edition, which is not the nicest way to read and link to things.

Anyway… the gist here is that springs and groundwater are not being replenished like they used to be. “What have been historically reliable spring flows are disappearing, droughts are becoming a regular phenomenon with increased temperatures,” according to the draft report presented to the county’s Board of Supervisors.

It gets worse for us fans of brook trout fishing. The article states that according to Shenandoah National Park personnel, “numerous springs are experiencing greatly reduced flow and that some have dried up entirely.” I noticed this two months ago when I fished the North Fork of the Thornton River from the bottom up into the park. It looked like this:

North Fork Thornton River - Summer
North Fork Thornton River, summer 2011.

Not what I was expecting. And this past summer was not as bad as some recent summers. This is not a good thing at all but may be something we are going to have to get used to.

Orvis News: Bringing Back the Salters

Salter - Sea Run Brook Trout

The salters? Yes, the saltaahs! An update from Orvis News about efforts to restore sea going brook trout (aka. “salters” that’s right) on Red Brook, a 4.5 mile spring creek that feeds into Buttermilk Bay on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition as well as Trout Unlimited are leading this effort. These sea run native brookies are hanging on thanks to these organizations.

Good stuff.

Menhaden – Take Action Now

Fish Boat - Menhaden

Menhaden Defenders has a campaign to stop the over-harvesting of this important species of fish. How important? The most important fish in the sea — remember that book? Stocks of menhaden have declined alarmingly in the past 25 years. They are harvested for uses such as Omega-3 oil supplements and oil based paint. Atlantic menhaden also happen to be a primary forage fish for a number of species of game fish such as stripers (or rockfish for you Mid-Atlantic residents) and bluefish.

Go here to take action to stop overfishing of menhaden. You can use the text they offer or paste the slightly corrected version below into their online form:


Dear ASMFC Commissioner,

I am deeply concerned that the Atlantic menhaden stock is at an all time low that that the latest stock assessment found that overfishing is occurring. Atlantic menhaden are vital to the Mid-Atlantic marine ecosystem, and this fishery should be managed with the utmost care.  Therefore, I respectfully request that you:

1) Establish the first ever coast-wide cap on the menhaden fishery for the 2012 season.  This quota should be based on an target of 30% of the Maximum Spawning Potential—i.e. 30% of the mature fish in an “unfished” stock must be left in the water—with a corresponding overfishing threshold of 15% MSP
2) Require appropriate monitoring and enforcement measures to avoid fishing over that cap
3) Move quickly to manage the species on an ecosystems basis, accounting for the critical forage role that menhaden play.

Thank you for considering my views.


Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation

Gas Drilling Rig

Just received an email from Trout Unlimited mentioning a group I was not familiar with, the Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation. They have a video about the concerns associated with gas drilling in Pennsylvania and you can also listen to a recent podcast about the Sportsmen Alliance with Chris Wood, TU’s CEO, and Katy Dunlap, Director of the TU’s Eastern Water Project.

I think their focus is well-stated:

“The Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation (Sportsmen Alliance) is a coalition of sportsmen and women working together to identify and propose solutions to mitigate the impacts caused by gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale on hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor sporting activities. The coalition is not opposed to gas drilling and recognizes the potential economic and social benefits. Rather, the Sportsmen Alliance is concerned that the current state and local policies governing gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale do not adequately protect valuable and irreplaceable natural resources, including clean water and critical habitat for fish and wildlife.”

You can also read more about the Sportsmen Alliance in an article from the Wall Street Journal. Some troubling things the group has found include the following:

“Already, preliminary water testing by sportsmen is showing consistently high levels of bromides and total dissolved solids in some streams near fracking operations, Dufalla said. Bromide is a salt that reacts with the chlorine disinfectants used by drinking water systems and creates trihalomethanes.”

Keeping on top of how energy companies extract natural gas is critical. There is no good way to clean up contaminated ground water and we certainly want to avoid contaminating streams and drinking water supplies near these drilling operations. I’ve written about the dangers of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region quite a bit previously. The threat to brook trout streams is real.

Huge New Jersey Brook Trout

The Jersey Angler - Huge Brook Trout
The Jersey Angler - Huge Brook Trout

Not to be outdone by the huge brook trout in the Upper Connecticut River in New Hampshire, my native state of New Jersey produces some giant brook trout, too. Wherever he’s fishing in this photo also has some huge rainbows and browns. I grew up in New Jersey and fished for warm water species with my family, but I’ve never fished for trout there and have never fly fished there.

This will hopefully all be fixed in 2011. The Garden State has big brook trout. I suspected it. I hoped for it. Now I know. If that photo is from the south whatcha-ma-call-it, I think I can make my way there.

TU On the Rise – Upper Connecticut River NH – Huge Brook Trout

Huge Upper Connecticut River, NH Brook Trout
Huge Upper Connecticut River, NH Brook Trout

This season’s fourth episode of Trout Unlimited’s On the Rise TV show is on the Upper Connecticut River in northern New Hampshire. Fast forward to 2:34 into the trailer on YouTube to see Jed Fiebelkorn catch a HUGE Upper Connecticut River, NH brook trout! That is a monster sized male, with a prominent hooked jaw and not real happy to be in a net. Incredible. We all know the typical sized brookies we catch in headwater streams. This is something else.


Must head up north…