New Brunswick's federal cabinet minister says Ottawa isn't ready to support the restoration of the Petitcodiac River in Moncton.

That comment Tuesday from Greg Thompson, New Brunswick Southwest MP and theminister of veterans affairs, hasastounded the headof a group that's lobbied for the restoration.

The $68-million project, which will allow fish to swim freely in the river, can only go ahead if the federal government contributes to the funding for it.

Amid much fanfare, the province announced last week its plans to restore the Petitcodiac River by replacing a causeway on the river between Moncton and Riverview with a bridge.

Provincial officials are banking on the federal government to pick up 75 per cent of the bill, but Thompson said any federal support for the project is a long way off.

"Negotiations haven't even started with the federal government in terms of the completion of that project and there's still a lot of disagreement on whether it should move forward or not. There's really been no progress and no consideration for funding at this point at all at the federal level."

Michel Desjardins of the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper said Thompson isn't singing the same tune as cabinet colleague Loyola Hearn, the federal minister of fisheries and oceans who was in Moncton a few weeks ago.

Hearn said the federal government has "a responsibility here and we're waiting for the province tomake its chosen option public so we can go to the table and negotiate some kind of deal," Desjardins said Wednesday.

"This is very contradictory to what was said by his colleague a couple of weeks ago, so I'm a little astounded by the comment."

Desjardins also said the issue has already been considered enough.

"This issue has been studied to death and the best science available is telling us that we should restore this river."

Desjardins said he is still optimistic that the project will go ahead.

Moncton MLA Mike Murphy refused to comment.

Provincial Supply and Services Minister Roly McIntyre, who made the Petitcodiac River announcement last week, was unavailable.