Nfld. & Labrador

Fish-friendly construction in Gros Morne National Park

Ongoing construction in Gros Morne National Park is actually helping to improve the fish population. Crews have replaced 86 culverts to make them more fish-friendly.

New road infrastructure will help fish populations, ecologist says

Ecologist Tom Knight stands next to a new fish-friendly culvert in Gros Morne National Park. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Ongoing construction in Gros Morne National Park is actually helping to improve the fish population.

Crews have replaced 86 culverts to make them more fish-friendly.

Ecologist Tom Knight says the new culverts that access fish-bearing streams have a rocky bottom and are more level with rivers — which helps salmon, trout and eels get through more easily.

"As they swim through, the water is not flowing very quickly. They have little places they can stop and rest, and there is a very natural bottom. They can swim a little ways, sprint and rest, sprint and rest," Knight said.

"Fish are no different than us. They can only sprint for so long and then they get tired. If you are on a treadmill and you are sprinting as fast as you can and you run out of energy, the treadmill throws you off the other end. That's what happens to our little fish." 

The older culvert, left, has a flat bottom and is raised up higher than the river. The new culvert has a natural bottom and is level with the river. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Millions spent on upgrades

Older culverts have a flat bottom with no rocks or spots for fish to rest. The older versions tend to be much higher than the river's edge, making it very difficult for fish to get through. 

The new, natural-bottom culverts will allow the fish to reach the other side and access bigger rivers and waterways.

The fish-friendly culvert project is part of a major road infrastructure upgrade underway in the national park. Last summer, $45 million was spent to replace culverts and fix the highway on Route 430.

This construction season, $22 million will be spent to pave the roads.

Construction and paving continue in Gros Morne National Park this summer. Expect some delays. (Colleen Connors/CBC )

Monitor fish populations

"It's very expensive to replace a culvert like this. You have to tear up the existing road. We have an opportunity now with ongoing infrastructure programing. [With] the road being repaved, it's a perfect opportunity for us to fix these," said Knight, pointing out a newly designed culvert.     

Parks Canada tracks the fish's progress. Knight plans on monitoring the new culverts to see if salmon, trout and eels are moving through the new culverts and populating more freely.

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