So when Brookfield Renewable Power doubles the flow of water in West Canada Creek to spin its turbines, what happens to the temperature of the creek’s big, deep pools?
Does the sudden rush from shallow Hinckley Lake flood the creek with tepid water? And if so, what does that do to trout, especially wild trout?
We’ve never known. Unlike many trout rivers around the state and the country, there have never been thermometers keeping track of the stream — but that will all change over the next couple of weeks, and it’s just one of the tangible benefits of Trout Power.
Trout Power, of course, is the weekend-long festival of events along the West Canada July 7-9, centered around a catch-and-release fishing contest in which every catch is carefully recorded and reported to help gauge the health of he fishery.
Trout Power raises funds for a number of good causes, including the installation of temperature sensors along the creek that will show the impact of the daily surge of water from the power plant.
The data may or may not show a clear impact on trout. But at least there will be data. Little is known about the West Canada, including whether any of its trout are wild, and whether the use of the creek by the power company, the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and the state Canal Authority impact its wildlife.
“We don’t know where the data are going to point,” said Angela Moonan, co-organizer of Trout Power and partner of J.P. Ross, owner of the Utica-based J.P. Ross Fly Rods.
Of course, many of us who love the West Canada suspect the surges from the power plant are harmful to the fish. They’re certainly harmful to the fishing, and we want to see them stopped when the power plant’s license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission comes up for renewal in a few years.
But the organizers of Trout Power aren’t pointing fingers at Brookfield Power. In fact, the company is a Trout Power sponsor.
“We’re not against hydropower,” Moonan said. “Hydropower is a great source of clean energy. It’s just a question of the use of the river, and whether there’s a way it can be managed to benefit everybody.”
And she does mean everybody. Trout Power is as much about supporting the tourism industry of the Kuyahoora Valley and improving relations between river users and riverside residents as it is about improving the fishing.
And so the weekend’s events range from an archery tournament to a rubber ducky race to a Saturday night concert. There will even be celebrities: Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, winners of “The Amazing Race” reality show last year and proprietors of the celebrated Beekman 1802 farm in Sharon Springs.
All of that will probably be ignored by hard-core trout anglers, whether they’re taking part in the contest and creel study or simply fishing like they do every weekend.
But the activities will be enjoyed by many people — locals and visitors alike — who don’t necessarily fish, but who love the character and charm of the region.
Thanks to Trout Power, they’re learning the value of the trout stream that runs through it.
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