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A stink of dead stripers
Robert H. Boyle
April 26, 1965
The Storm King fight rages over the Hudson and a conservationist raises questions about missing pictures and spawning grounds
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April 26, 1965

A Stink Of Dead Stripers

The Storm King fight rages over the Hudson and a conservationist raises questions about missing pictures and spawning grounds

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In addition to Indian Point, the Fisheries Subcommittee will investigate the testimony given before the FPC on Storm King by Dr. Alfred Perlmutter, a former employee of the Conservation Department who is now an associate professor at New York University and a Con Ed consultant. Briefly, Dr. Perlmutter testified that he could "almost guarantee" that the proposed Storm King plant would have "little effect" on fish eggs. The "best" spawning grounds for striped bass, he said, were "much farther up river." Later he added, "The last study on the Hudson River was made in 1938, and it hasn't been done since."

No other fish experts were present when Dr. Perlmutter testified before the FPC—which had published notice of the project without naming Storm King as the site in a newspaper in out-of-the-way Goshen, N.Y.—but when a number of organizations interested in fish resources heard about his statements, they sought to join Scenic Hudson in the fight by asking the FPC to reopen the hearings. The gist of their protests was that the New York State Conservation Department had published a study of the Hudson stripers not in 1938 but in 1957. Further, this study indicated that the fish spawned in the vicinity of Storm King. Moreover, the two biologists who had conducted the study, Lewis Miller and Warren Rathjen, had been hired for that job by none other than Dr. Perl-mutter. Among the groups which sought to reopen the hearings to allow other experts to testify were the Cortlandt Conservation Association up on the Hudson; the village of Freeport on Long Island; the Town of Hempstead, which has a population of nearly a million; the Hempstead Town Lands Resources Council, with 30,000 members and affiliates; the Nassau County Fish and Game Association; the Long Island [commercial] Fishermen's Association; and the National Party Boat Owners Alliance, composed of captains who have direct financial stake in the irreplaceable Hudson fisheries.

Before granting its license to Con Ed the FPC could have reopened hearings to admit extraordinary testimony. But for all the angry letters and petitions that went to the FPC demanding a rehearing, Con Ed sent a reply to the commission claiming rebuttal on Storm King was too late and that "allegations" about Indian Point were "irrelevant." On March 9 the FPC, in a 3-to-1 vote, agreed to grant Con Ed a license. The Indian Point kill was dismissed by the FPC in a footnote as "outside the jurisdiction of this Commission." As for Dr. Perlmutter, the FPC has endorsed him as "an outstanding ichthyologist." Charles Ross, the dissenting commissioner, wrote: "The continued existence of this [Hudson fish] resource is one of the primary issues in this case, and I, for one, am not willing to base an ultimate conclusion upon testimony about which serious doubts have arisen."

A hearing was set for May 4 to determine the route of the high-tension towers and the type of screen to be placed over the Storm King intake tubes. On April 1 the Conservation Department announced Con Ed would finance a $150,000 three-year study of Hudson River fish. In view of the fact there is no fish screen that can exclude the tiny striper eggs, the May 4 session promises to be meaningless.

Fortunately, the Fisheries Subcommittee will bare all the facts. Perhaps, ironically, the Hudson River, the living river, may yet be saved by dead fish long thought buried in an obscure dump and by pictures buried in Conservation Department files.

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