MANCHESTER – The Amoskeag Fishways, which operated year-round education programs and gave visitors glimpses into underwater fish migrations, will scale back to an intern-operated operation open to the public only in the spring, the New Hampshire Audubon Society has announced.
The change reflects the new ownership of the Amoskeag Dam and adjacent hydro facility, which Eversource sold to an energy holding company, the Maryland-based Hull Street Energy, last year. Eversource started funding the Fishways in 1995 and had provided nearly 85 percent of the operating budget, said Helen Dalbeck, the outgoing Amoskeag Fishways executive director.
Dalbeck said three full-time people are losing their jobs, including herself.
“This has been a nice, nice partnership for many years,” said Dalbeck. Eversource provided the funding and the space. The Audubon Society staffed the center. And U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Hampshire Fish and Game Department provided assistance.
The Fishways includes a viewing area where visitors could see migratory fish underwater as they made their way through the fish ladder.
It brought programs on urban wildlife to all city elementary schools, offered summer programs for families and provided education programs connected to the Merrimack River watershed, including animals, water, hydro electricity and history.
The center counted 660,000 visitors since its opening in 1991, and its programs reached 127,000 Manchester-area school children.
Dalbeck said the center’s operating budget ranged from $270,000 to $295,000 a year, depending on grants. She said there was no will to launch and maintain a funding effort.
According to a press statement, the visitor center will be open between April and July, when fish are migrating up the Merrimack River. The statement said interns from local universities with “a passion for the environment” will manage the facility.
Tours of the facility during the remainder of the year will still be available with advance scheduling.