Fish boom prompts energy conglomerate to spend $14.5M to bury subsea cables
Cable trenching came about as result of unexpected redfish population boom
It's a fish story no one saw coming, at least not Halifax-based energy conglomerate Emera.
The parent company of Nova Scotia Power disclosed this week to the Utility and Review Board that it spent almost $14,492,000 this summer to bury its Maritime Link cables lying on the floor of the Cabot Strait between Newfoundland and Cape Breton.
The cables were protected because an unprecedented explosion in the redfish population in the Gulf of St Lawrence is about to trigger a corresponding boom in bottom trawling in the area.
Also known as ocean perch, redfish were not on anyone's radar when the $1.5-billion Maritime Link was designed and built to carry Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia.
The two 200-kilovolt electrical submarine cables spanning the Cabot Strait are the longest in North America. They are each 170 kilometres long and weigh 5,500 tonnes.
Nova Scotia Power customers are paying for the Maritime Link in return for a minimum of 20 per cent of the electricity generated by Muskrat Falls over 35 years.
The electricity is supposed to start flowing through the Maritime Link in mid-2020.
First time cost disclosed
In August, the company buried 59 kilometres of subsea cables one metre below the bottom at depths of 400 metres.
"These cables had not been previously trenched due to the absence of fishing activities at those depths when the cables were originally installed," spokesperson Jeff Myrick wrote in an email to CBC News in October.
Ratepayers will get the bill next year. Until now, the company had declined to release costs relating to protecting the Maritime Link.
The bill will be presented to regulators when the company applies to recover Maritime Link costs from Nova Scotia Power ratepayers in 2020.
Myrick said the company was acting after consultation with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
After years of overfishing in the 1980s and early 1990s, redfish quotas were slashed and a moratorium imposed on some redfish.
Confusingly, there are actually two redfish species in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
But very strong recent year classes, that have coincided with warming waters in the gulf, have produced redfish in massive numbers.
There is now believed to be three-million tonnes of redfish in the Gulf of St Lawrence.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is expected to increase quotas in the coming years and the fishing industry is gearing up in a big way.
Earlier this month, Scotia Harvest announced it will begin construction of a new $14-million fish plant in Digby next spring in part to process increased redfish catches.
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