Town Diary - January 2004
Whittemore Salmon Station Closing
The Whittemore Salmon Station is closed after 22 years of operation at its location in Peoples Forest on East River Road in Barkhamsted. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection announced the decision in December 2003 and now in January 2004 the facility is relatively quiet as DEP employee Joe Ravita works to mothball the building. There are no plans to demolish the facility at this time. The decision was reached based on a lack of funding. At the time of closing there were 229 salmon at Whittemore, which were transferred to other salmon facilities. If funding becomes available in the future the Whittemore facility could possibly reopen.
Joe Ravita has been a full time DEP employee since 1987, and has lived and worked at the Whittemore location during that time. He will continue to live here as a caretaker, however most of his time will be spent at State hatcheries in other locations. The effort to restore Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River and its tributaries is still an ongoing effort, if somewhat reduced in scope because of funding cutbacks.
Photo above- The Whittemore Atlantic Salmon Holding Facility closes after 22 years of operation on East River Road in Barkhamsted.
Photo above- DEP employee Joe Ravita will still spend some time at the Whittemore facility in a caretaker role.
The Whittemore Station was used to hold adult Atlantic salmon that had returned from the ocean. The salmon had been trapped in the fish ladder at the Rainbow Dam in Windsor, and were held at in tanks at Whittemore that simulate the environment of the Farmington River. Salmon captured at fish ladder at Leesville Dam in East Haddam also came to Whittemore. The wild salmon were not brought to other fish hatcheries in Connecticut because they could potentially harbor pathogens that could endanger other fish at those hatcheries. So they were segregated at the Whittemore facility. After spawning at Whittemore, the eggs produced by these salmon were transferred to hatcheries located in the four Connecticut River basin states (Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut).
Looking just at the Farmington River portion of the salmon restoration effort, the program was meeting with success up to about 1997. Each year a good number of salmon were returning to the Farmington. In 1997 there were 60 salmon counted at Rainbow Dam, in 1998 there were 50. After 1998 the numbers started to fall off dramatically, with 6 in 2001, 4 in 2002 and 2 in 2003. Salmon seem to do well in the Farmington River and appear to migrate out to the ocean in a normal fashion. The problem occurs in the ocean and the push now is to try to figure out what is going on at sea. Possibilities include changes in ocean temperature (the polar ice caps are melting and this could be lowering ocean temperatures) or an increase in predators such as stripped bass.
For more detailed information on the Atlantic Salmon restoration program and the Whittemore facility, see our May 2003 town diary page
Photo above- The Whittemore facility on a cold day in January, 2004.
Photo above- Looking down stream on the Farmington River, Barkhamsted, just north of the Whittemore Salmon Station (January 2004).
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