Conflict over whether to remove Mactaquac dam

CBC NEWS - New Brunswick

Fishing groups in conflict over whether to remove Mactaquac dam

Salmon advocates want dam taken out but those who fish other species favour keeping it

By Terrence McEachern, CBC News Posted: Sep 09, 2016 1:13 PM AT

Two New Brunswick organizations stand on opposite sides of a debate on whether to remove or keep the Mactaquac dam.

Peter Cronin, president of the New Brunswick Salmon Council said Friday on Information Morning Fredericton the dam should be removed and the St. John River returned to a "free-flowing, natural environment."

'A major threat'

Salmon face other challenges, such as diseases and parasites, and removing the dam wouldn't guarantee the survival of salmon in the river, he said. But dams are "a major threat" to salmon, he said.

"Without removal of the [Mactaquac] dam, there is no real healthy future for wild Atlantic salmon in the upper St. John [river]," said Cronin.

He explained that the size of the dam affects younger salmon's ability to make their way down the river and to the ocean and leaves them exposed to predators. Smaller dams are less problematic and can have better fish passage constructed, Cronin said.

Removing the dam is one option being considered by NB Power as the dam is expected to reach the end of its life by 2030. Other options being considered include building a generating station on the opposite site of the river, leaving the dam in place without power generation, or partially rebuilding and repairing the existing dam to extend its life.

'Fish passages'

Jeff Wilson of the New Brunswick Sports Fishing Federation is opposed to removing the dam because of the impact it would have on the economy and sports fishing for bass and other species on the river.

He said he isn't "anti-Atlantic salmon" but is "pro-economy" and feels a balance needs to be struck between the two.

Wilson said removing the dam would impact other fish species while also noting salmon numbers are going down in places without dams. He called the idea of removing the dam the "largest experiment, ever, of a dam removal."

"We feel that there should be a reconstruction of the dam [and] proper fish passage put in," he said.

Cronin supported the idea of reconstructing the Mactaquac dam to improve fish passage, but added the cost of doing so would be significant.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton