Oyster fishermen are fighting for a say on how a major bridge on Prince Edward Island’s north shore is rebuilt next year, in an effort to reverse depleting shellfish stocks.

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The Cascumpec Bridge was built in the 1960s. (CBC)

 

The province plans to rebuild the aging Cascumpec Bridge in West Prince.

Oyster fishing in the river below has been in decline for decades.

The plans for the new $2-million bridge call for it to be 10 metres longer than the old one, but fishermen argue that's not long enough to let the tide flow through.

"The water quality is the number one thing. The way the bridge is being constructed is that the water coming down is too warm. It doesn’t flush out and you have all these nitrogen overloads and chemicals coming down off the water," said Tignish oyster fisherman Clifford Bernard.

After fishermen complained they weren't getting enough information on the project, transportation officials agreed to hear their concerns at a meeting in Alberton on Friday.

"It's ready to collapse. Like last year, we estimated mortality rate was around 50 to 60 percent and this year it's even higher," said oyster fisherman John Powers.

The province said it has studied water flow under the bridge, and making the new bridge longer won't move more water.

"In this particular structure, all the available tide is now getting through. To spend an extra $2 million to widen or lengthen the bridge just [isn't] cost effective. The benefit is not there," said Darrell Evans, assistant director of Capital Projects.

Construction delayed

The province had intended to start rebuilding this year, but has put it off until 2014, citing budget constraints. It also said urgent projects cropped up in other parts of the Island.

The province also intended to host a public meeting about the bridge, but because the reconstruction has been postponed the public meeting is also delayed.

The Cascumpec Bridge was built in the 1960s.