Thursday, January 26, 2012

Updated 3: Power plant closing will impact local fishing, birding

With Akron-based FirstEnergy's announcement that it will permanently shutter its Eastlake's coal-fired power plant, area anglers will face a reduced fisheries.

This point is particularly true during the winter months when the plant's discharge of warm water during the electricity-generating process keeps open a large swath of water.

The open water attracted not only bait fish and steelhead but also anglers. These fishermen would line up along the publicly owned breakwater located at the end of Erie Road in Eastlake.

During warmer months the anglers there will often case for white bass and yellow perch along with just about anything else that bites.

For birders the loss will hurt, too. The winter-time open water was a haven for waterfowl, American bald eagles, gulls and terns of all kinds as well as some rarely seen or uncommonly viewed bird species.

Besides the Eastlake coal-fired power plant FirstEnergy also intends to permanently close three others. They include the plants at Ashtabula, Cleveland and Bayshore in Toledo.

All of these plants operated on a limited, as-needed, basis but now will be close permanently sometime later this year.

FirstEnergy says it is less expensive to close them than it would be to retrofit them with the latest air pollution control systems. The Eastlake plant became operational in the 1950s.

The Cleveland Lakeshore plant - and to a lesser degree the one at Ashtabula - also often offered open-water fishing during the winter.

John Pogacnik, Lake Metroparks' biologist, said birders and anglers often stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the seawall, each doing their own thing.

"There's been a lot of really good records of birds being observed there," Pogacnik said. "It's been one of those places where everybody cam to watch for birds in the winter."

Rich Miecznikowski, owner of Erie Shore General Store, a local go-to bait store at the corner of Erie Road and Lakeshore Blvd. in Eastlake, said the seawall fishing location has always been popular with anglers.

“There’s a fair amount of people who do go there in the winter for the trout but not as many as those who fish for white bass in the summer,” Miecznikowski said.

“And what attracted the white bass was the current that was always there, but this is the first I’ve heard of it.”

Don Schonauer, area taxidermist and angler, said he sometimes fished the mouth of the Chagrin River when the lake and stream were both open during the winter.

“That will be a big loss since it’s been such a good staging area for steelhead before they ran up the river,” said Schonauer said.

Similarly the shut-down of the Cleveland plant will hurt the fishing, too.

“Well, there goes my winter minnow-collecting site,” said Paul Liikala, formerly of Perry Township and now of Cuyahoga Falls. “That’s not good news. Both were real nice places where guys could go to in the winter and get away from cabin fever by catching some steelhead.”

Liikala said that while he liked fishing the discharge waters from both the Eastlake and Cleveland power plants he is pleased that the Bayshore plant is closing. That is because this plant has a notorious reputation for sucking in and chewing up untold numbers of small walleye and other sport fish.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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