How construction on the Cornwall bypass is helping the Clyde River

Construction of a new bridge across the Clyde River is underway for the new Cornwall bypass. The province has re-routed the Clyde River below it. Local watershed groups are helping ensure fish get a better river out of the deal when it's all done.

Clyde River is being rerouted, rehabiliated

Daryl Guignion walks a newly reconstructed stretch of the Clyde River where a bridge will soon be built for the Cornwall bypass. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The Cornwall bypass is intended to move more cars faster. A major piece of river realignment now underway is intended to help fish get around better, too.

"We're putting the river back the way it used to be," said Daryl Guignion, technical advisor to the Queens Wildlife Federation. "It's become too shallow because of changes made to the watercourse over the past 200 years or so."

Guignion donned a pair of chest waders Tuesday to walk through a newly reconstructed section of the Clyde River. Around him and above him, construction crews were preparing ground for a new bridge across the waterway, part of the final stretch of the Cornwall bypass.

"It's five feet deep past here, seven feet if I take another step," said Guignion, up to his chest in free-flowing water. The Clyde hasn't run that deep in decades, due to gradual siltation that had been choking fish out of their former habitat.

"I do like what I see. It's going to create deeper pools for fish," said Guignion, carefully stepping up the bank.

The old river bed is shallow and slow moving. Machinery is preparing ground for re-routing of the stream. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The river was rerouted by construction crews now working on the bridge. They were guided by a plan put together by an engineering consultant hired by the Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy.

The plan made a 325-metre section of the river straighter, with gentle curves, rocky sides, and large rocks placed strategically to create turbulence and to add oxygen to the water. By relocating the course of the stream, crews also created firm footing for the massive bridge to be installed overhead.

"We're doing some unique work," said Brian Thompson, director with Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy. "We minimize any impact on the environment and where we have the opportunity, like we do here, to actually improve habitat and improve the environment."

Duck ponds and wetlands to be created

​The province is working with two local watershed groups — the Clyde River and the West River  — to complete the project. 

As part of the work, the province will also rehabilitate the site of an old dam, upstream from the new bridge. Duck ponds and wetlands will be created or enhanced at several sites along the bypass, according to Thompson.

Guignion says he hopes to see walking trails built along the river too, similar to trails built by the province in recent years in nearby Bonshaw.

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About the Author

Brian Higgins

Brian Higgins is a CBC videojournalist on Prince Edward Island.

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