Sal­mon Cove River will never be the same

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

“Is the fresh wa­ter that once flowed by my home now the flow of waste that can­not sus­tain the growth of trout and sal­mon? Or am I suf­fer­ing from delir­ium and now too can­tan­ker­ous to think ra­tio­nally?”

I’ve lived at the same ad­dress in Sal­mon Cove for all my youth and the ma­jor­ity of my adult life.

It is on the bank of the pond/river/ brook that runs from Beaver Pond, For­est Pond, and Big Pond con­tin­u­ing into Harry’s Pond be­fore it emp­ties its wa­ters into Con­cep­tion Bay as it passes Sal­mon Cove sands.

Be­fore 1974, ponds in my area en­cour­aged recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties pro­vid­ing hours of fond mem­o­ries for the youth of Sal­mon Cove. I of­ten played, in sum­mer and win­ter months, near the brooks and ponds in the com­mu­nity.

The youth swam in the crys­tal wa­ter, ate the trout and sal­mon we caught, and, when needed, drank the wa­ter from the brook and pond.

Over the past two sum­mers I have no­ticed some re­search tak­ing place in the river near my home.

As part of this re­search a pam­phlet has been placed in the lo­cal town of­fice and I re­cently read this doc­u­ment, Sal­mon Cove River At­lantic Sal­mon En­hance­ment Pro­ject, com­pleted by Amec Fos­ter Wheeler, a com­pany pro­vid­ing engi­neer­ing ser­vices around the world. The pam­phlet states: “Vale has un­der­taken mul­ti­ple off­set­ting pro­grams to com­pen­sate for losses of fish habi­tat due to the construction and op­er­a­tion of the pro­cess­ing plant.

As part of the off­set re­quire­ments un­der the Cana­dian Fish­eries Act, Sal­mon Cove River was iden­ti­fied for habi­tat restora­tion to im­prove ac­cess and fish num­bers to an his­toric At­lantic sal­mon (Salmo salar) run.

“Sal­mon Cove River was se­lected be­cause it’s a Sched­uled At­lantic sal­mon river with a rel­a­tively large drainage area (68 km square) but has a re­duced At­lantic run.”

Since the in­stal­la­tion of the la­goon (ex­tended aer­a­tion) near For­est Pond I have wit­nessed the clar­ity of the fresh wa­ter de­te­ri­o­rate as it flows by my home and the stones that rest on the river bot­tom have de­vel­oped a green­ish growth that makes the bot- tom ap­pear as a poorly kept lawn. The fresh wa­ter that I quickly drank as a child has be­come dis­coloured and smelly. I be­lieve very few, if any, res­i­dent of Sal­mon Cove will eat any trout or sal­mon that may be hooked in this river sys­tem.

The pam­phlet is­sued by Amec Fos­ter Wheeler con­cludes: “A phys­i­cal ob­struc­tion (veg­e­ta­tion over­growth) at the out­flow of For­est Pond in Sal­mon Cove River ef­fec­tively elim­i­nated up­stream mi­gra­tion for At­lantic sal­mon and brown trout.

The ob­struc­tion was in place for at least 17 years be­fore be­ing re­moved in 2011.”

How­ever, the re­search fails to re­al­ize that the phys­i­cal ob­struc­tion be­gan shortly af­ter the Vic­to­ria land­based waste treat­ment la­goon was put in place in 1974.

Many res­i­dents of Sal­mon Cove pre­dicted in 1974 that the de­struc­tion of the river sys­tem through Sal­mon Cove would hap­pen and that waste from the la­goon would dis­colour the crys­tal wa­ter flow­ing through the town and for­eign growth in the wa­ter would kill off all nat­u­ral growth – trout and sal­mon.

The pam­phlet sug­gests that the man­ual re­moval of block­age (tree growth) at the out­flow of For­est Pond will greatly im­prove the mi­gra­tion up-stream for At­lantic sal­mon.

This may of­fer an im­me­di­ate short­term so­lu­tion, how­ever, it does not ad­dress the main cause of the block­age.

Amec Fos­ter Wheeler fails to re­al­ize that the block­age will con­tinue and will again re­duce mi­gra­tion of the At­lantic sal­mon up-stream. It might be more ben­e­fi­cial if Amec Fos­ter Wheeler re­al­ized that it of­fered a band-aid to a pa­tient who needs a lung trans­plant.

Amec Fos­ter Wheeler is cor­rect in con­clud­ing that fewer fresh wa­ter fish (brook trout and sal­mon) are mi­grat­ing through the wa­ter sys­tems be­tween Sal­mon Cove and Vic­to­ria. Fur­ther, it is also cor­rect in re­al­iz­ing the growth of ob­struc­tion in the river sys­tem is hav­ing a neg­a­tive ef­fect upon the mi­gra­tion of sal­mon into the river sys­tem.

How­ever, Amec Fos­ter Wheeler did not ask the ques­tion: “What is caus­ing the growth of ob­struc­tion in the river sys­tem?” Or, per­haps, it did not want to pen­cil-to-pa­per any such con­clu­sion.

Is the fresh wa­ter that once flowed by my home now the flow of waste that can­not sus­tain the growth of trout and sal­mon? Or am I suf­fer­ing from delir­ium and now too can­tan­ker­ous to think ra­tio­nally?

Harold Peach writes from Sal­mon Cove

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