Pictou County Rivers Association

August 3, 2015

There’s good news in Pictou County when it comes to wild Atlantic salmon and its habitat. For one thing, the preliminary results of a recent water quality study show no signs of dangerous pollutants, no detrimental effects of runoff from farmland and no excess nutrients that could impair conditions for resident salmon and trout.

“We collected 21 water samples from seven rivers and streams over July, August and September and analysed each sample for 25 parameters,” reports Roy Parker, treasurer of the Pictou County Rivers Association (PCRA). “We didn’t find any contaminants of concern, and the dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity levels of the water were quite good. This is encouraging, when you consider the extent of farming, forestry and coal mining in this area over the years.”

That said, PCRA’s 2014 program, which received $8500 in support from ASCF, did call for some remediation work, habitat improvement and fish passage assessment.

One area of concern was a stretch of river bank along the West River, which had eroded and become damaged after flooding resulting from the September, 2012 tropical storm.

“We brought in about 350 tons of armour stone to shore up some 65 metres of the riverbank,” says Parker. The summer students working on the project then planted grass, and would have planted a 25-foot wide buffer of trees had the fall weather conditions not forced them to defer that plan until next spring.

Other activities included the installation of 45 structures (digger logs, deflectors, bank supports, etc.) in Six-Mile Brook, West Branch River John and Marshy Hope Brook, the removal of a debris jam in the West Branch River John, and a survey of culverts with an eye to improving fish passage in the West River and Barney’s River watersheds.

“A preliminary survey of the West River Falls was also conducted by our volunteer consultant, Charles MacInnis, assisted by PCRA volunteers,” Parker adds. “It was concluded that a project to improve fish passage over the falls would be very complicated, labour intensive, costly and dangerous, so it was recommended that the PCRA not consider undertaking that a project at this time.”

Fortunately, salmon in Pictou County’s rivers probably won’t need whatever habitat may lie beyond those falls, thanks largely to the work PCRA has been doing over the last 20 years.

“Pictou County rivers do support reasonably healthy stocks of Atlantic salmon,” Roy Parker admits. “But the fish are still under constant threats from habitat loss and destruction, damage to our streams through severe storms, threats to water quality and illegal fishing activities,” he cautions.

That warning goes a long way in explaining why the retired biologist and his fellow PCRA members are so passionate about the numerous activities they organize, from “Fish Friends,” which involves all the elementary schools in the area and last June resulted in the release of over 9000 salmon fry in the West River, to their annual remediation and research programs that not only engage and educate many volunteers, but also allow high school, college and university students to literally “get their feet wet” in the field of conservation.