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by Atlantic Salmon Federation on 
From Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador

Last week I spent several days on the Great Northern Peninsula deploying ASF’s tracking equipment across the Strait of Belle Isle between the Island of Newfoundland and Southern Labrador.  Our start out point on the Newfoundland side is Green Island Cove and our end point on the Labrador side is the community of L’Anse-au Loup.  We have been deploying our tracking equipment across the Strait of Belle Isle, with the help of a local fisherman, Loomis Way, for about ten years now.   The process involves a few days to prepare all the gear and to attach the tracking receivers to individual lines that have an anchor on one end and buoys (floats) on the other end.   The receivers are deployed one kilometer apart in a straight line, and the GPS coordinates of each receiver drop site is recorded along with the date and time they are deployed.  We also deploy a second line, one kilometre north of the first line to ensure the first line is accurate and not missing signals from any fish that swim by them.

For anyone not familiar with the Strait of Belle Isle, it is a passage about 12 miles wide that connects the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Labrador Sea.  Ocean currents in this passage are very strong, and when wind conditions kick up, as they do most days, you have a recipe for some of the roughest sea conditions that you can imagine, especially when you are out in a 22 ft open boat loaded with gear. Needless to say, we venture out only when sea conditions are suitable, but in this area things can change fast.  

On our first trip we departed the wharf in Green Island Cove at 5am and had only deployed four receivers when we developed engine trouble and had to return to shore.  Four hours later we resolved the problem and deployed the rest of the gear without a hitch.  The second trip went like clockwork and the receivers were deployed in their proper locations in good time.  

The third deployment was a different story. 

By the time we finished preparing the gear and placing it in the boat, the wind had shifted to northerly and sea conditions picked up, so we postponed our trip for a few hours until the wind seemed to be dropping.  Anxious to get the last load of gear in the water we took advantage of the opportunity, and off we went.  However, less than a third of the way across the strait, the winds suddenly picked up again and before we knew it we were in sea conditions that made it difficult to stand up in the boat.  But we punched on through the waves knowing our boat would become lighter with every anchor we dropped at the next waypoint.  By the time we got the last receiver in the water just off shore from Lance au Loup on the Labrador side, conditions were pretty bad I had my ‘bacon and eggs turned over’.  Needless to say I was glad to make it safely back to shore in Green Island Cove.   But after all that I would still prefer a day on the water to a day in the office - anytime!    

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Protecting the Future of PEI streams
by Atlantic Salmon Federation on 

From Lewis Hinks, ASF Director of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Programs

This week, Mark Lanigan (President of the ASF-PEI Council) and I, along with Paul Michael, PEI council board member, presented our concerns/comments to an advisory committee working on a Water Act for Prince Edward Island.

As most of you may well know, PEI streams are fed almost entirely by groundwater. The beauty of that is PEI rivers have good temperatures (with a few exceptions) in the hot summer months. These streams are also very nutrient rich and aquatic life grows well there.

There is increasing pressure from various industries to draw more water from the ground water reserves and we (ASF/ASF-PEI) are concerned that a decrease in groundwater reserves would have a negative effect on PEI rivers. We feel much more information about the relationship between groundwater and stream flows must collected before allowing any removals.

We were well received by the advisory committee and feel our concerns were duly noted. Stay tuned as this issue develops.

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Two Brooks on New Brunswick's Tobique
by Atlantic Salmon Federation on 

By Nathan Wilbur, Director, ASF Programs in New Brunswick

Material deposited at brook mouth. This will migrate into the salmon pool beyond.ASF and the New Brunswick Salmon Council (NBSC) remain concerned about alteration work that was completed on the lower reach of Two Brooks near its confluence with the Tobique River.  

At this location, there is a major salmon holding pool and Two Brooks used to provide cold water to the head of the pool, thereby creating thermal refuge conditions for the length of the pool.

A  wetland and Watercourse Alteration (WAWA) permit was granted by the provincial Department of Environment and Local Government (DELG) and federal permission from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to infill an active channel of the brook and divert it into a floodplain channel.

Original confluence of Two Brooks and the Tobique. Also showing is the campground and exposed pipes.

The brook now flows into the Tobique River near the tail end of the salmon pool, approximately 140 m downriver of the original outflow. In addition to the diversion of the brook and bank hardening using boulders, the old Two Rip-rap and diversion of stream into hard right bend.Brooks channel was in-filled. This work was approved as part of a campground construction on the floodplain of Two Brooks and the Tobique River. Flood marks on trees are evidence that during high flows, river levels regularly overtop the bank level.

We are concerned about this on several levels:

  1. The development's sewage system will be flooded whenever the river overtops its banks (expected during most spring freshets)
  2. The new location of the brook outflow decreases the capacity of the pool to serve as a thermal refuge for Atlantic salmon
  3. The hardened bank on the brook will continue to create problems, such as bank erosion and scour/incising within the channel itself. There is evidence of this already as material has been scoured, transported down to the mouth of the brook, and deposited. From there, it will make its way into the salmon pool.

What is most alarming about this situation is that a permit was issued to undertake the work without addressing necessary issues impacting salmon habitat. Without a geomorphic assessment, there was inadequate understanding of flood risks, erosion risks, and repercussions of alteration in general.  

To avoid a situation of this nature in the future, ASF and the NBSC strongly suggest that DELG and DFO incorporate a professional geomorphic assessment requirement into the WAWA permitting process for projects of this nature. Major works, such as at Two Brooks, should be professionally assessed in terms of the hydrology of the site, the hydraulics of the watercourse, flooding potential, natural channel morphology, erosion thresholds, and so on. A geomorphic assessment would benefit both the regulators and the permit applicant to make better informed and sustainable decisions, with a reduced risk to the environment.

ASF and the NBSC are willing to work with DELG and DFO on the details of such a requirement and to which types of projects it may apply.

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Don Ivany Provides Update on NL Rocky River Fishway Issue
by Atlantic Salmon Federation on 

Construction began on a new fishway on the Rocky River in Newfoundland with no clear plan for moving the run of Atlantic salmon up past the falls to allow them to spawn. ASF's Don Ivany provldes an update on the situation in late October, 2015.

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Restoring the Piscataquis
by Atlantic Salmon Federation on 

Over the past few months, ASF has been replacing an undersized 12-foot box culvert with a new 51-foot prefabricated steel bridge on an important Atlantic salmon rearing stream in Blanchard Township in central Maine. The project restored access to a dozen miles of pristine, cold-water habitat in Blackstone Brook, a tributary of the Piscataquis River, which in turn is a major tributary of the Penobscot River.

The old culvert at Church Road on Blackstone Brook was identified by biologists as a severe fish passage barrier for juvenile and adult eastern brook trout and for juvenile endangered Atlantic salmon several years ago.  The undersized culvert also impacted habitat through scouring of the downstream channel, altering sediment transport, and limiting movement of large wood. The road also over-topped annually during spring runoff, dumping road gravel into the downstream floodplain and river channel.

New bridge on Blackstone Brook replacing the box culvert.

Blackstone Brook is a cold, high-gradient system that is fed by mountains and is primarily forested and largely undeveloped. Blackstone is critical habitat for Atlantic salmon and this project was considered the highest priority restoration project for Atlantic salmon and brook trout by the state and federal agencies in the entire Piscataquis River Watershed.

The bridge span was set at the end of September, just in time to experience a 6 inch rain event. The crossing did its job well and allowed entire trees to pass downstream. Decades of build-up gravel and cobbles stored upstream of the crossing were mobilized and moved downstream. Over time, this material will be dispersed ever further, restoring spawning habitat in the lower portion of Blackstone Brook.

Piscataquis River, photo John Burrows/ASF

Project partners include the Maine Department of Marine Resources, Natural Resource Conservation Service, NOAA Restoration Center, Piscataquis County, local landowner Steve Hobart, The Nature Conservancy in Maine, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wright-Pierce, Inc.

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