NSPI pays $50,000 for Kings County fish kill

Duck race blamed for in­ci­dent that killed adult gaspereaux

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY IAN FAIR­CLOUGH THE CHRON­I­CLE HERALD

Nova Sco­tia Power has agreed to pay $50,000 to a fed­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal fund for a fish kill in­volv­ing its White Rock gen­er­at­ing sta­tion in Kings County last year.

A re­lease from the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans March 21 said the power cor­po­ra­tion has vol­un­tar­ily agreed to pay the money to the Fed­eral En­vi­ron­men­tal Dam­ages Fund by March 31.

The agree­ment was made a few weeks ago, fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by DFO into a vi­o­la­tion un­der the Fish­eries Act.

The sec­tion in ques­tion cov­ers car­ry­ing out work or ac­tiv­ity that causes harm to fish that are part of a fish­ery.

Last May 28, a gate at the gen­er­at­ing sta­tion was opened to cre­ate a faster flow of wa­ter along a canal for an an­nual fundrais­ing event that saw num­bered rub­ber ducks placed in the Gaspereau Canal to “race” down the canal.

The in­creased wa­ter flow led to the death of adult gaspereaux, the DFO re­lease said. The fish were un­able to fight against the in­creased flow and were drawn into the tur­bines.

Be­side the pay­ment, NSPI has agreed to make re­pairs to the lou­vres and bub­ble cur­tain meant to di­rect fish away from the tur­bines and to­ward the fish lad­der, to hire a third-party con­sul­tant to in­ves­ti­gate al­ter­na­tive tech­nolo­gies that would ex­clude fish from the canal dur­ing mi­gra­tion, and to find ways to pro­vide sup­port to DFO for real-time fish counts at the White Rock gen­er­at­ing plant dur­ing the 2018 fish­ing sea­son.

The power cor­po­ra­tion will also no longer “par­tic­i­pate in non­op­er­a­tional events which would re­quire the fa­cil­ity to ad­just the unit gate to in­crease wa­ter flow down­stream.”

That means the duck race won’t hap­pen again.

No one from DFO was avail­able to com­ment March 21.

Nova Sco­tia Power spokes­woman Tif­fany Chase said the pay­ment was part of an agree- ment with DFO, but the com­pany was not charged un­der the Fish­eries Act after the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It was part of our joint dis­cus­sion when we were com­ing to the agree­ment,” she said.

She said the cor­po­ra­tion will also in­cur costs for the other parts of its agree­ment.

She said the lou­ver and bub­ble cur­tain — lo­cated in the in­take canal about 1.5-kilo­me­tres up­stream from the gen­er­at­ing plant — was re­paired last year.

“We fully co- op­er­ated in (DFO’s) in­ves­ti­ga­tion through­out, and pro­vided in­for­ma­tion as part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and at the con­clu­sion of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion we came to the agree­ment,” she said.

The Fish­eries Act sets fines for a first of­fence un­der sum­mary pro­ceed­ings in court at $5,000 to $300,000 for an in­di­vid­ual, $100,000 to $4 mil­lion for “a per­son, other than an in­di­vid­ual or a cor­po­ra­tion re­ferred to in sub­para­graph (iii).”

That sub­para­graph refers to “a cor­po­ra­tion that the court has de­ter­mined to be a small rev­enue cor­po­ra­tion,” and set a fine of $25,000 to $2 mil­lion.

It’s not clear what cat­e­gory NSP would fall un­der.

There was no es­ti­mate of the num­ber of fish killed.

‘On­go­ing and chronic mor­tal­ity’

But Dar­ren Porter, with the Fundy United Fed­er­a­tion of Fish­er­men, al­leged hun­dreds of thou­sands of fish died that week. He said fish­er­men on the river re- ported dead fish on four dif­fer­ent days be­fore the duck race.

“The rub­ber duck race was not an iso­lated in­ci­dent,” he said. “There was on­go­ing and chronic mor­tal­ity. . . . The river was full (of dead fish).”

He said the $50,000 pay­ment wasn’t suf­fi­cient, and wasn’t a penalty.

Asked if he thought NSPI should have been charged, he said, “I’ll put it this way. If they charge any civil­ians in the prov­ince this year, (with Fish­eries Act of­fences), they should chuck it out of court.”

He said the $50,000 wouldn’t even cover what the dead fish would have been worth if it was sold for bait in lob­ster traps.

“It’s a slap in the face,” he said. DFO said or­ga­ni­za­tions that fo­cus on the restora­tion or en­hance­ment of fish habi­tat on the Gaspereau River, or nearby wa­ter sys­tems, will be given pri­or­ity when ap­ply­ing to the En­vi­ron­men­tal Dam­ages Fund for any of the $50,000 be­ing con­trib­uted by NSPI.

It said the gaspereaux stock in the Gaspereau River has been in­creas­ing over the past two decades, and more than 1.1 mil­lion fish as­cended the fish lad­der at the gen­er­at­ing sta­tion last year, up from 400,000 each of the pre­vi­ous two years.

Porter said some of the fish that were killed last year hadn’t spawned.

“We cut them open and they weren’t even spawned . . . they never made it to fill their life cy­cle.”

A mass fish kill noted at Nova Sco­tia Power’s White Rock gen­er­at­ing sta­tion last May prompted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans.

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