$1.2 million funding boost for eastern NS rivers

Work will improve environment for fish

By Katherine Murphy    

SHERBROOKE – Years of habitat restoration work along the St. Mary’s River received a major boost through a federal funding announcement in Sherbrooke on May 8. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Jonathan Wilkinson was at the St. Mary's River Association Interpretive Centre to announce $1.2 million over three years in funding to restore watersheds and coastal habitats in eastern Nova Scotia.

Speaking to a full house at the interpretive centre, the minister described the important work to be done by the St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA) in habitat restoration.

“The SMRA will evaluate the approaches used to address pH issues in watersheds and help to develop a science-based program for St. Mary’s and potentially for other rivers to improve aquatic habitat for many species, specifically for Atlantic salmon, brook trout and eels.”

The funding is being shared with the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, which will focus on the improvement of water quality and restoration of physical habitat in the West River, Sheet Harbour and its estuary.

Member of Parliament for Central Nova Sean Fraser acted as emcee for the announcement and highlighted the need for action in protecting Canada’s wildlife.

“Canada is one of five countries in the world that represent three quarters of the world’s remaining wilderness. We have an opportunity and in my opinion, an obligation, to do something about it.”

SMRA President Scott Beaver told The Journal that the association has been working on this grant since early 2018.

The new funds will build on the work the association has done over the last number of years in habitat restoration along the river, which have been guided by the outcomes of the 2013 St. Mary’s River Recovery Strategy. The SMRA president says now that they have secured the funding, the next step will be developing a budget for the next three years, and to hire a project manager as soon as possible.

The goals for the funding, as outlined by Beaver, include improving the water chemistry in the St. Mary’s River to help increase the salmon population. Liming will take place to raise the pH level of the river, the effects of which will last for up to 50 years. The process of liming is new to the association, which Beaver notes plays into the importance of having a hired manager to oversee the project.

Other objectives are improving the habitat along the river, as well as improving the waterway for recreational activities like kayaking and canoeing to help bolster the area’s eco-tourism sector.