Chéticamp River Salmon Association

July 4, 2014

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, that’s certainly the case for this photo.  It shows a set of four culverts on Aucoin Brook, one of just a few tributaries of the Chéticamp River with potential spawning habitat for migrating Atlantic salmon.

Potential spawning habitat” is the key phrase, however. The stacked culverts had long been preventing fish from reaching important upstream spawning habitat. Not only that, but the culverts were also causing heavy siltation, which was degrading spawning and rearing grounds.

Most of the Chéticamp River lies within the boundaries of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and is a popular destination for sports fishers. That indicates that it’s also a destination for migrating salmon and trout, despite the fact that its main stem is inaccessible beyond a barrier falls about 20 kilometers in, andother waterfalls limit access to all but a few miles of its tributaries.

“Aucoin Brook lies completely outside of the National Park, however,” Jillian Baker, project manager with the Chéticamp River Salmon Association (CRSA), explains. “While the brook has good potential spawning ground for salmon, over the years it has been severely impacted by farming, logging and mining and, more recently, by poor road construction and ATV practices.”

The four-culvert structure was a prime example of harmful human impacts. The solution? The culverts had to go! Now, thanks in part to a $5000 grant from ASCF and the hard work of the Chéticamp River Salmon Association (CRSA), they’re nothing more than a memory.

“The culverts were removed and replaced with a large wooden trail bridge,” says Baker. ASCF funding covered material costs, including lumber, pit gravel, rocks, nails, and other supplies.

“Construction of this bridge has eliminated a major restriction to fish passage, improving access to kilometers of proven spawning and rearing habitat,” says Baker. “Now that the culverts have been replaced, the heavily silted areas above and below the bridge should also begin to clean up, and we expect to see additional habitat improvements.”

So what’s next for Aucoin Brook?

“The CRSA plans to continue its restoration work on Aucoin Brook, as well as on other local waterways that have proven spawning habitat for Atlantic salmon and other native species,” says Baker.

And thanks to a grant from the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, Baker is now developing a comprehensive management and restoration plan that willhelp the CRSA identify and prioritize restoration activities for the years to come.