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.
By Nathan Wilbur, Director, ASF Programs in New Brunswick
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 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:
The development's sewage system will be flooded whenever the river overtops its banks (expected during most spring freshets)
The new location of the brook outflow decreases the capacity of the pool to serve as a thermal refuge for Atlantic salmon
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.
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.
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.
The counting fence went into operation in early July to offer another aspect of analyzing the river's restoration and to provide an adult Atlantic salmon assessment to go along with the juvenile assessments that have been taking place for several years.
Lewis Hinks, ASF Director of Nova Scotia Programs says:
"Most exciting, 34 adult Atlantic salmon, mostly grilse were found to have returned to the West River – Sheet Harbour. This goes a long way to showing how liming can be an effective restoration tool for rivers impacted by acid rain and related issues."
He also notes, “This counting fence installation was a first effort and part of a learning curve in monitoring this river's recovery to health in the years ahead. We still have a lot to learn, and this was part of that experience.”
"We think we can salvage virtually all of the structure, and carry on from here."
On Sept. 29, 2015, ASF Director of Quebec Programs Charles Cusson, presented Martin Lefrançois, President of Société de gestion de la rivière Matane (SOGERM) with ASF’s Affiliate of the Year Award and Roll of Honour. SOGERM modified their harvest decision-making process by first assessing returning salmon. Their action inspired a change of Quebec policy affecting most salmon rivers in the province in 2016. A $1,000 cheque goes with the award to help SOGERM in their conservation efforts.
From Don Ivany, ASF's Director of Newfoundland & Labrador Programs
A quarter century ago DFO declared that Corner Brook Stream, cascading down through the city, had no Atlantic salmon left. But with ASF and community groups working together it was cleaned up and sources of pollution stopped. One thing was still missing – Atlantic salmon.
But then there was ASF’s Fish Friends program, with students raising a small number of eggs to fry stage in their classrooms. Could these be part of the rebirth of Corner Brook Stream? So with a fair bit of effort, I was able to work through a bunch of red tape and finally convinced DFO to allow these schools to release their young salmon fry into Corner Brook Stream. And so, over the next eight years, and with volunteer help from our local affiliate, the Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland (SPAWN), we were able to coordinate the students involved in our ‘Fish Friends’ program in the area to individually release all the salmon-fry they raised in their classrooms into Corner Brook Stream.
SPAWN continues to work on the stream, but now something is different. The salmon grew, and went to sea. And then they returned. In recent years the returns have been increasing. In 2015, 74 grilse and 29 large adult Atlantic salmon ascended the fish ladder - some of them in excess of 20 pounds!
Does it get any better than that? ASF and SPAWN were recognized by the City of Corner Brook last year and awarded their Annual Environmental Award of Excellence.
Recognition is always appreciated, but the real story is coming up that fish ladder. A stream can be brought back from oblivion.
Salmon can return. When people care. When a community cares.
I have been working with the Cheticamp River Salmon Association for a while, as part of the advisory committee for some major restoration work on the channel. Essentially the channel in the lower part of the river is much too wide for the size of the watershed. This change is a result of many decades of agricultural and forest activities and habitation. This all stopped when the area became part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in the 1930’s, but the impacts continued. This highlights that damage to a river can have very long term impacts, in this case, a century ago. The urgency for this work came to a head a couple of summers ago when a very warm and dry summer resulted in environmental conditions that hampered salmon movement up the river.
A fisheries biologist and a hydrologist were contracted to develop a channel restoration plan for the area that required the construction of rock bars that would constrict the stream flow, scouring out a deeper channel. Phase 1 of a proposed three-phase project was completed in the summer of 2014 and after a fall, winter and spring we were starting to see the changes in the channel that we had hoped for. The mean channel depth has increased and a defined channel was forming.
Fast forward to August 22, 2015.
Environment Canada forecasts 10-15mm of rain on an otherwise beautiful late summer day. Enough to ruin a picnic, but not much else, certainly not enough to have any real impact on the river. Well, it turns out that Mother Nature had something more in store and instead dropped 110mm (official measurement) of rain in something like four hours. I have heard that unofficial measurements of rain were in the 150mm range. This brought the river up very high, very quickly, resulting in major flooding in the park. Campers evacuated in the night, and very significant changes took place in the river channel. New pools were scoured, wide shallow channels were narrowed and deepened and major rocks were moved around in some popular pools.
I visited the area on August 27 and was astounded by the differences. Some fish, both adults and juveniles had to be rescued from side channels and we did lose some salmon and trout. Changes to the channel in the lower part of the river that were expected to take 5-10 years occurred over night. What a difference a day makes!