Richmond Bay Watershed Association

June 4, 2014

Imagine swimming along and coming across an obstacle that leaves you high and dry. Fortunately, all you have to do is stand up, walk to where the water gets deeper, and continue swimming. Not so if you’re a salmon in a stream. If he comes across a barrier, he has no way to surmount it.

Wild Atlantic salmon can face a number of obstacles when making their way up rivers, brooks or streams. Sediment build-up is one; beaver dams and damaged culverts are others.  Whatever they are, barriers aren’t something salmon can fix, so the result can be the decline of a viable fish population.

Enter the Richmond Bay Watershed Association (RBWA), a group of volunteers dedicated to restoring and improving salmon passage and habitat in rivers, brooks and streams in the Tyne Valley and Richmond areas of Prince County, PEI. The RBWA-initiated Grassroots Conservation in Action Project had a full list of tasks to accomplish in 2013. Two of these involved barriers in Bank Brook and received $5,000 in ASCF funding.

“One of the barriers was sediment build-up in Bank Brook, which had resulted mainly from beaver colonies causing debris and eroded soil to flow downstream from their dam sites,” says Cathy Gallant, RBWA’s executive director.

“The solution was to build a bypass pond to control that sediment by reducing the speed of water flow and allowing soil particles to settle,” she explains. “Thanks to that man-made pond, downstream habitat for older fish has vastly improved. We expect that upstream habitat will do likewise.”

As a bonus, the newly created pond is not only a good spot for fish, but also for other species like ducks and birds, says Gallant.

The other barrier was caused by both man and beavers – a damaged and dammed culvert structure that was part of a road crossing further up the brook.

“The structure was part of an access road to a farmer’s back fields,” Gallant recounts. “Beavers continuously dammed the culverts, causing flooding and erosion and creating a partial obstruction to the free passage of fish. The culverts were undersized, too, which made the problem worse.

“Since the road was no longer safe to cross, the farmer had stopped using it. It was time to return the brook to its natural, free-flowing state.”

That done, “the need for annual repairs and concern about further erosion issues no longer exist, and fish passage and habitat has been vastly improved,” says Gallant.

While the RBWA has accomplished alot, there are still many more tasks on the “to do” list in their watershed management plan.