Big & Small Tracadie Rivers Watersheds Association

June 3, 2015

Step by step, in a logical, strategic fashion. That’s usually how progress is made, and that is exactly how a group in Tracadie, New Brunswick is proceeding with its plan to improve wild Atlantic salmon habitat in the area.

“Habitat restoration is one of the key projects identified in our 2013-2018 operating plan,” explains Joannie Thériault, a biologist with the Big and Small Tracadie Rivers Watersheds Association.Thériault is also coordinator of the Association’s three-year project to assess the Seal, Trout, Gaspereau and Thomas tributaries in the Small Tracadie watershed and then develop, and implement, remediation plans for each of them. The project has received a total of $33,900 in funding from ASCF.

This summer, year one of the project, Thériault’s team methodically assessed each of the streams, collecting data every 150 metres. Information recorded included the GPS coordinates, a description and a picture of each site, and notes detailing environmental problems or any changes to the stream caused by humans, animals or weather. The condition of the banks (slope, stability, vegetation cover) was also evaluated, and readings of the water’s temperature, dissolved oxygen, depth, width, velocity and flow rate were taken. Other observations such as weather conditions, the general appearance of the water, and any other relevant information were also recorded.

Maps of each stream, showing all relevant characteristics, were then produced, and all the information collected was carefully documented and problems prioritized by level of severity and need for repair.

“With that information we were then able to develop a detailed remediation plan for each of the streams,” says Thériault. “Years two and three of the project will see those plans implemented and completed. Then we’ll be able to measure the success of our work by comparing this summer’s data with similar readings taken when the job is done.

“One thing we did know before we started was that sedimentation is a big issue for each of the streams,” Thériault adds. “Much of it is due to bank erosion and instability caused by land development, and by ATVs.”

Which is why another aspect of the project is public education.

Through public presentations, workshops, pamphlets, newsletters, and visits and field trips with the area’s schools, Thériault’s team got its message out to over 1500 people. Property owners and ATV operators were asked to complete a questionnaire aimed at measuring how much they knew about erosion and the impact their activities have on the watershed. At the end of the survey there was an invitation to sign a pledge indicating that they would alter their activities to protect the watershed. Some 91 people made the commitment. Landowners agreed to address bank erosion and sediment problems by planting a buffer zone of vegetation between their operations and bordering waterways, while ATV operators signed that they would not drive across streams, thus preventing damage to the banks and all-important gravel beds.

“It is not enough to restore the fish habitat,” says Thériault.  “It is also important to involve the people in the community to ensure that the habitat is respected and preserved.

“Hopefully, the combination of our remediation work and our ongoing efforts to raise public awareness will pay off with a brighter future for wild Atlantic salmon in the Small Tracadie River watershed.”