NB Salmon Council speaking in favour of removing Mactaquac Dam
Published Sunday, September 4, 2016 6:52PM ADT
NB Power is scheduled to make a decision by the end of this year on the future of the Mactaquac Dam, but for the first time, some groups are beginning to speak out in favour of removing it entirely.
Despite a proposal to add a $100 million fish passage to a future dam, the New Brunswick Salmon Council says the best option for salmon is to remove it altogether.
"We're saying on the balance of facts here, Mactaquac Dam should come out," said Gary Spencer, director of the New Brunswick Salmon Council.
"Even if you put the best fish ladder in the world at Mactaquac Dam, you will not solve the fish passage problems at Mactaquac Dam. You may ease them, but you will not solve them."
Spencer has years of environmental engineering experience, and insists the council didn't reach its conclusion lightly.
But he says the species is on the brink of being labeled endangered, and the council wants that to be considered when NB Power makes its decision on the dam's future.
Thanks to the structure's deteriorating concrete, that decision is supposed to come by the end of the year.
"As a society, we need to stop and think about this. We're going to invest $5 billion to replace a dam? What's the return on investment? We haven't seen that," said Spencer.
But there are other ideas on the table, including completely replacing the dam, removing the parts that provide power while leaving the dam to hold the head pond, or refurbishing it.
All options would cost between $2 billion and $5 billion – and some would have bigger consequences than others.
If they were to remove the dam, it would allow the entire head pond in the Mactaquac Lake to flow free, devaluing thousands of waterfront properties that now sit along it.
"We're talking thousands of homes that have water view or water access, including Mactaquac Provincial Park, eight or nine campgrounds with thousands of tourists that visit here,” said Larry Jewett, member of the Friends of the Mactaquac Lake.
“The other thing that we're really disappointed the salmon council doesn't mention is the small mouth bass fishery that we have here."
The dam also provides the province with 12 per cent of its electricity needs. Jewett would like to see the dam remain to protect the lake, and he says he's not alone.
"Some of the data that we saw in the public consultations is upwards of 60 per cent in favour of keeping the lake regardless if there's power or not," he said.
Spencer says the council is principally concerned with what's best for the salmon and environment.
NB Power tells CTV News it’s still on track to make a decision in a couple of months, ending the whispers of speculation about the Mactaquac Dam.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.