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SPRING: Private Profit; Public Loss

Posted by on 26 May 2020 | Tagged as: American shad, Connecticut River, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, FirstLight, FirstLight Power, FISH CAM, fish passage, Holyoke Dam, Holyoke Fish Lift, Humor, ISO New England, migratory fish, Northfield Mountain, shad fishing, Silvio O. Conte Connecticut River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Slim Shad Point, Turners Falls dam, Turners Falls power canal, USFWS


Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SPRING: Private Profit; Public Loss

Despite the enormous and longstanding damages the Industrial Age visited upon the Connecticut River—the early clear-cutting of the north woods, the building of the main stem dams and canals, the profligate effluent pollution, the thermal heating from a pair of nuclear reactors, the eviscerating impacts of a massive, river-reversing pumped storage project, it somehow has survived into the 21st century with a relatively robust and still-restorable spring run of American shad in its lower reaches.

Fishing Slim Shad Pt. Holyoke Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (Click X 3 to enlarge; back arrows to return)

The Connecticut is indeed rare in that respect—as well as for being host to the most successful fishway on the entire East Coast, with a lift first put in place at Holyoke Dam in 1955. That spurred a New England fisheries restoration effort begun here between federal and state fisheries agencies in 1967. It is why the Connecticut ultimately became the central artery of the 4-state Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in 1997. But by that time the river’s migratory fisheries restoration had already stalled and foundered in Massachusetts just 36 miles upstream of Holyoke, at the foot of the Turners Falls power canal and dam.

Shad Angler Wading at Holyoke Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (Click X 3 to enlarge; back arrows to return)

The complex of fish ladders and canal routes chosen and installed there in 1980 were largely weighted toward passage of a new, mass-produced hatchery-hybrid salmon strain. They proved an obvious and instant failure for the hundreds of thousands of shad returning to pass that place as soon as all the concrete dried. Vermont, New Hampshire, northern Massachusetts—never received their promised bounty.

And so it is to this day. The Connecticut, still massively overworked and under-protected, remains without any new bona fide restoration success for migrating shad in 3 out of 4 of the states over its 410 mile reach over the last 30 years. Where have the fish successfully passed? You need not go far to identify the break point. Smack in the heart of this spring’s migration peak here’s a quick look at the stats for fish passage success up through Memorial Day weekend. As of May 25, 2020, some 274,370 shad had been lifted past Holyoke Dam according to USFWS Connecticut River Project Leader Ken Sprankle.

And at Turners Falls? Well, the last report offered included a total of 735 shad passing as of May 17, 2020. They don’t report regularly from Turners Falls. If FirstLight had just installed a simple Fish Cam the public would have had something this year—while all their license-required recreational access has been shut down tight this spring, including fish viewing, camping, even hiking trails. But, just to compare: as of that same date, May 17, 2020, Holyoke had already reported passing 51,000 shad upstream. It only takes the 1-1/2 – 2 foot long, blue-green migrants just a day or so to start knocking on the door at Turners Falls. But as the failed restoration numbers have grimly shown for decades, the river’s great run dies in the alternately starved and ramped-up industrial flows set in motion by gatehouse and dam operators at Turners Falls and Northfield Mountain.

Listless Riverbed at Turners Falls, May 14, 2020
Photo Copyright © 2020 by Karl Meyer ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
. (Click X 3 to enlarge; back arrows to return)

It’s now three migration seasons past the April 30, 2018 expiration date of the current Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license for FirstLight’s Turners Falls Dam, yet no legally-mandated fish passage–upstream and down, has been constructed. Literally nothing has been done. While citizens in three states—including fifteen cities, towns and villages, are yet to see their rightful share of the river’s fish.

As always, FERC and ISO-New England (in Holyoke) have both made sure to requisition and have available a glut of power for the sprawling Northeast power grid here (at public expense, but without public input of course) It’s way more than enough to easily exceed the grip of a summer heat wave. Climate emergency be damned… It does means big corporate profits. Meanwhile, it’s mid-spring. Power use is at a low annual ebb. Yet New England’s Great River here in the United States is currently starved of both its fish and life-giving flows at Turners Falls–while Canada’s shareholder-owned FirstLight Power exports its profits out of the region.

A living river is a public right here. Whose pockets are being lined?

Fishing the Big Three

Posted by on 07 Jan 2008 | Tagged as: Humor

* the following commentary aired on American Public Media’s Marketplace on December 27, 2007.  If you scroll down the right side of this page to “Blog Roll,” there is a link to their web page and the story.  I think it works…

KarlMeyer                                                                                           © 2007

                                     Fishing the Big Three


There was no room for panic; no margin for error.  I watched–as if from above.  One minute I’m enjoying the simplest of quick-lunch pleasures; the next I’m hurtling down a path toward oblivion, a twig-like object wedged between my teeth.  The culprit was a can of chunk white albacore.  I plunged my hand into the mess and clamped on the menacing stick.  Pulling back, I experienced the same rush cardiologists must feel when the paddles bring a heartbeat back to life, “I’m rich!”

The tuna bone, an inch-long relict of Thunnus alalunga, glistened.  My eyes darted to the can.  Yes!  I’d hooked into one of the Big Three!  Now, instead of my life ending in premature asphyxiation, I’m suddenly contemplating ascension to the ruling class.  Call me lucky, call me Ishmael– just don’t call me late for dinner!

Shaking, I washed the bone.  I contacted the tuna company’s website, stating facts: I have the bone; I have the can in a photo with a dated newspaper.  I didn’t mention lawsuit, or involuntary manslaughter.  We’re all professionals.  This could be handled neatly.  I’d await their generous offer.  I started pricing houses and hybrid cars.

The letter arrived a week later, standard mail, “A bone the size you reported is not typical of our efforts to produce the highest quality canned tuna on the market.”  A settlement of sorts was enclosed: four free cans of albacore with hopes that this would restore my consumer confidence.  They requested the bone back, and included two coupons for 25 cents off.  Big Tuna, showing me the love.

So this was customer care?  Double coupons–my loyal-silence secured for the price of stinking mackerel??  Well not so fast Chunk Lite!  Even a fish knows fishy when he smells it.  No deal–bottom feeder!  Try starting with roses next time, maybe a little sushi.  For now, I’m securing your little tuna terror-bone in a tiny evidence bag.  Have your people get in touch with mine.  We’ll talk turkey, brand-loyalty, hybrid cars…

Karl’s Christmas Kitsch Farm

Posted by on 13 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Humor

December 13, 2007           Copyright: Karl Meyer

                    Karl’s Christmas Kitsch Farm

Looking for an alternative, environmentally-friendly way to ring in the holidays?  Come to Karl’s Christmas Kitsch Farm in nearby Confield!  At Karl’s you can experience the excesses of the holidays without having to “buy” into them.  Come to Karl’s and hack down your own plastic spiral tree—it’s easy as one-two-three with our Karaoke chain saw.  Rev her up and “Timber!”, that PVC beauty is lifeless on the ground.  Enjoy the crisp air as it bumps along behind Santa’s golf cart.

Worried about the environment?  The Kitsch Farm can help!  All Karl’s trees can be rented on an annual basis.  Drive up to KCKF and pick a plastic tree at any season.  We’ll tag it; water it, and mulch it until you arrive for the Big Day!  When you’re done, simply ship it back in the Kitsch Mailer.  We return it to the stillness of our ancient PVC forest and its own pre-sunk stand.

Want to make a dent in climate change, but don’t know where to turn??  Let the Kitsch Farm help with holiday venting!  Follow Snowman Drive to our sea of blow-up, Frosty Snowmen.  Imported exclusively from China, each Frosty is carefully inflated to maximize Kitsch appeal.  Your venting options diverge here: you may simply unplug your Frosty, letting it ooze out its life like the Wicked Witch of the West; or rent a simulated Samuarri dagger and “take the snowman out” shouting expletives from Caesar’s time; finally, send Frosty packing with a blast from our holiday shotgun—available exclusively on our Plastic Reindeer Safari from Karl’s expert PVC Guides.

Lest you think there’s a Kitsch bias at Karl’s, you’d be mistaken.  How about Karl’s Plastic Menorah Darts?; Karl’s Kwanza Demolition Derby??; and, for “ye of little” or no faith: Karl’s Kitschy Gift Card–for consumerist venting any time of year.  Karl’s products are fully guaranteed.  Your spiral tree will fall in a perfect single helix; your Frosty will pop with the sound of fresh powder; and your “Kwanza Car by Karl” will plow into that bloated pile of gifts with unflinching speed.  We promise!  Remember: “Thinking Kitsch?  Think Karl’s!”

The Institute for Foul Language (IFFL)

Posted by on 13 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Humor

This was written as a radio commentary                          December 11, 2007
© Karl Meyer

             The Institute for Foul Language (IFFL)

In today’s global economy businesses are often confronted by languages and accents impossible to follow.  But foreign deals need to close, pronto; stock needs shipping–yesterday.  Now there’s a way to get through to folks that don’t have a clue what you mean either.  Learn to communicate instantly–unequivocally, using skills and training from the Institute for Foul Language.

Need something relayed in Farsi, Mandarin, Sumatran?  Don’t memorize the whole darned language!  A few accented phrases from the IFFL playbook will get that bloody contract photocopied and faxed, TODAY!   There’s little time for decorum in today’s international marketplace. 

Let the Institute for Foul Language put the “pro” back in your profanity, the “cur” back in your cursing. Our foul language classes get the results that you want, in the time frame you need!

One, three, and eight week courses can have you heaping expletives on that shipping clerk in Timbuktu in no time.  You’ll curse like a Wall Street floor trader—sling slurs like one of the Sopranos.  We’re not bleeping kidding!

Maybe your trash-talk’s still pretty good and you just need some brushing up.  An IFFL Day-Spa Refresher is just the thing.  Spend a day in our hot tub, work-out rooms and massage center, learning tricks and filthy trade terms from our cell-phone phrase book.  Then, rejuvenated, head back into the business world with the confidence and foul-mouthed temerity that moves international business.

Remember, the Institute for Foul Language has the words and phrases that will move your product.  Why be polite, when you can be succinct, salacious, and successful?  Operators are standing by.  Courses begin this week in a town near you.  All certified IFFL courses come with a no-bull, money-back guarantee.  We bleep you not!  Phone today, toll-free: 1-888-GET FOUL.

The wages of chocolate

Posted by on 06 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Humor

Karl Meyer
November 6, 2007

The Wages of Chocolate

I didn’t get a job today. I got a candy bar instead. I looked for a job. Alittle. I read through the want ads. I emailed an editor to see about writing a new story. I started a long–frustratingly, endlessly long, letter to another magazine editor about a bigger story. That letter just kept growing as my confidence in its potency withered. I put it aside after staring at it for hours. I looked up job listings on-line. I looked in the phone book for places to call about work. But in the end I got one reply from that first editor—all the spring articles have been assigned. Are you interested in summer?–we have an issue on bugs?? As I said, I didn’t get a job today.

Well Scarlet, tomorrow’s another day. As the light faded, I thought it would be tolerably responsible to go out again—even though I’d already taken advantage of the decent weather to have a midday bike ride that lasted an hour and a half. But I would go out, return a library book; maybe pick up some new reading. And I’d stop at one of the stores with a news rack out front and pick up a copy of a new magazine someone suggested I could maybe write for.

In the end I got two books. And I borrowed a music CD. Clearly these things were not jobs, but they were pretty good. Plus, they were free. I was not spending like a drunken sailor as I went through my underemployed day. But in the lobby of the drugstore, the sirens were calling to me: candy! CHOCOLATE! Halloween is just past. I didn’t get any candy for trick-or-treaters since I wasn’t going to be home. But neither did I go any place where there was candy put out for little adult candy beggars like myself. There are years when you’d be hard-pressed to avoid the candy deluge–and you wouldn’t think twice about missing out. But, when it’s not there… you know.

So, in I went, like a zombie stalking in candy land. And there were the bags of the stuff, all in snacky-sizes, half price. I wanted chocolate. Chocolate alone. There was one crinkly plastic bag with a couple of dozen chocolate bars all individually wrapped inside. It depressed me—unpeeling all those wrappers. I’d have to look at them. I wanted something bigger. I wanted a big honkin’ block of no-job chocolate. I followed my nose, and there—just ahead, were the big bars. You know the ones. Paper binder over tin foil. On sale. Eureka! I grabbed a bar and had me a purchase—no bag, thank you very much.

Suddenly I felt as if I almost had a job. My job would be to eat this chocolate bar when I got home. Here was work that no one else had thought of. I would get right in the trenches and take care of it. But I got to looking at that candy bar on the walk home and started to decide this job was not going to be all it was cracked up to be. This candy bar was small—smaller than the ones that were on the shelves just a year or two back. Even on sale it was more money, less chocolate. Have you noticed this? I felt more than a little cheated. I’d ended up with a part-time gig, when I was looking for a full-time job. I didn’t necessarily want work that seemed like I was going around in a clunky old pick-up with scrawling on the side that read: No Job Too Small. I wanted work; I wanted chocolate.

In truth, the wages of chocolate are low. If I had more money—and better taste, I’d be buying the high-priced, fair trade stuff. The people harvesting cocoa beans, primarily in Africa, are sometimes—even often, working in slave-like conditions. So eating bad chocolate, or even just a lot of chocolate, is not a particularly good job at all. There’s a lot of misery behind all that sweetness.

However, when I got home, I bit in. And I sat down to continue working on that arduous query. The bar, five ounces—not the former eight of just a year back, slid down my throat in silky bites. It wasn’t hard work at all. But, by sheer weight, this commodity is overpriced compared to the wages the cocoa corps imposes on the laborers. And at this end it’s higher prices; smaller bars–a chocolate pyramid scheme. Candy bars used to cost a nickel, then a dime—the quarter, now sixty cents on a good day. That’s for those weenie part-time bars.

So I’m wondering, as I sit here looking at my smaller “large” bar, with a bigger price tag slapped on it to disguise its deficiencies, if we really are all just being programmed. Will we continue to accept less, for more?—be tricked into thinking that a treat of something smaller is the same? Can they make us believe that small is big, just by saying it is? This is a serious worry for me. I have one last chunk of candy bar and then wrap the remainder in its foil for another little morsel round tomorrow. This whole chocolate thing is hard work. And I need a job.

Already in the System

Posted by on 01 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Humor

Already in the System

For me a trip to the mall is something akin to seeing the dentist: most times I’d rather just skip it.  But there was no getting around this visit.  I was after bedding, something no longer available in town–at least at prices that don’t feel like tooth extraction.  I bit my tongue and pushed through the double doors, smack into the jowls “big box” bedding.  I was greeted by a tidal wave of prints and plastic packaging.  It just seemed too MUCH!

I walked toward an area that seemed promising, and waded in.  The choices ranged from flannel, cotton, polyester, cotton blend, and silk, to striped, dotted, flecked, splashed and patterned.  Then there was the confusing tableau of size, color, depth, thread-count, and etc.  Tiring precipitously, I grabbed something plain, vaguely off-white (and hopefully the right size), and bolted to the register.  This would be quick.  There were two people in line.

And then I heard it: the first customer parroting his phone number to an inquiring cashier. I assumed they were not contemplating a date.  And I knew–for me at least, this was well into the realm of the personal.   This guy’s purchase consisted of hand towels, or something in terry cloth—about as impersonal as a quart of milk.   “It’s none of your business,” I thought.  The towel man soon had his plastic bag and receipt.  He moved on.  Maybe we’d all call him at home.  I started to do a little burn.

But then–I was saved.  “THANK YOU!” to the woman in front of me at the check-out.  When asked her phone number as the transaction commenced, she replied, “Oh, I’m already in the system.”  A light went on in my head.  “YES!”  I’m already in the system!  Here at last was the sweet rejoinder to every prying, annoying request for phone numbers, postal codes, maiden names–makes, models and plate numbers.  Here was a reply that would play as well on Main Street as at the mall.  Wall Street be damned, “I’m already in the system.”  The transaction proceeded seamlessly. 

 I started practicing.  Of course I was going to lie, but I wouldn’t have to sound uncooperative–not have to feel I was single-handedly challenging the global, free trade megalith.  Instead of tensing-up at the thought of disappointing a blameless cashier with, “I don’t give out that information,” I’d smile and chirp, “Already in the system!”   

In these days of security cameras, credit monitors, warrantless phone sweeps, pre-flight searches, thousand-mile border fences and vigilante boundary guards—I just want to keep a few boundaries around me.  The point for me is not to become another point, or series of data points.  The rub is not to be the rat in the grid: “Oh, he’s buying THOSE now,” blinks a message toward buyers in China or India, or Pakistan, “Make more of THOSE for him.” Maybe I don’t even like THOSE, or I am buying THEM for someone else and the world doesn’t need anymore of THOSE.  Maybe THOSE are already next week’s schlock and the planet would be much better off if we stopped making THOSE, or if we figured out how, once again, to make THEM nearer home.

The product–which the “friendly“ system was concerned enough about to ask my phone number, was a full-size, fitted, bottom sheet.  And yes, they used to make THOSE ten miles up the road.  I imagined them calling at night, “Mr. Meyer, hello.  Oh, sorry sir—you were sleeping.  Just wanted to check on that sheet.”   Nope, I would not be offering up any bites of personal data this day.  My sleep preferences–for now least, would remain my little secret.

As the “already in the system” woman completed her purchase I thanked her.  I was honest about my intended plagiarism, “I’m going to use that.”  She smiled, somewhat knowingly, but added, “Well, I really am.”  In explanation I offered my thoughts on out-of-control data collection.  “You’re quite welcome,” she smiled again.  The cashier eyed me as I stepped to the plate.  Before she could begin, we each raised an eyebrow.  “I know,” she said wearily.  Our transaction was seamless.