The Day – DEEP’s “unfriendly” decisions

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I was a fan of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, DEEP as it’s called now. As an avid angler for life, I have seen them protect my favorite species of fish and access my favorite fishing spots. Back when they were just the Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, I was part of their volunteer fisherman survey program, which used fishermen’s reports to assess annual local fish populations. It was when we were friends.

So, I read with interest and disappointment the recent column by David Collin, “DEEP to allowowner to home owner to install beach-obstruating fence on state-built aine” (November 23). This appears to be the latest in a series of capitulations to influence, money, and perhaps politics. Like Mr. Collins, I am not a lawyer or surveyor either, but I do know that the public has access to the shore below the mean high tide mark. Blocking it goes against both the letter and the spirit of the law, see: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Coastal-Resources/Public-Trust-Fact-Sheet.

According to this state document, “In general, if an area is regularly wet by the tides, you can probably assume that it is owned by the public… Public rights include fishing, boating, hunting, swimming, the taking of shells, the gathering of seaweed. , cutting the sedge, and going over and over again. . . “Obviously, they know what is right and should protect the public.

Another recent disappointment was DEEP’s decision to allow the Thames River to be filled between Central Vermont and the State Piers to allow the assembly of wind turbines for use at sea, practical use of water but not dependent on shore water. I see it as a problem.

About fifty years ago, I was a kid living not far from the piers. My father gave me a happy spring ritual by taking me out fishing for winter flounder from the central Vermont wharf. He was longshoreman, ILA Local 1411, the union decimated by recent operator changes at the pier. I only mention this because I’m pretty sure this is how we got access to the area, and he would have also been mad at the loss of jobs, a sad victim of the current fiasco of the Port authority.

I didn’t like it at the time, but my baited hook caught the hungry spawning plaice. I remember pouring white milt from the males and eggs from the females. They spawn during winter and spring in shallow coastal waters, often returning to the same areas where they were born. According to NOAA, plaice populations have been declining since the mid-1980s due to overfishing, pollution from runoff and warming waters. Whether spawning in the river or using it as a feeding ground for further migration, why put them at risk? The final approval of the Army Corps of Engineers is now the final hurdle in filling the plaice playground.

Environmental protection and public access should be high on DEEP’s agenda. When I see that, we can become friends again. My hand is outstretched, and I wait.

The author is a resident of Mystic.

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