PEI

Come hail or high water: Watersheds reinforce rivers in central P.E.I.

The Bedeque Bay watershed and Central Queens Wildlife Federation have moved thousands of pounds of wood and rock over water and through the thicket to install deflectors in their streams.

Deflectors will help migratory birds settle and allow fish to migrate easily, co-ordinator says

Chris Newell says this deflector will hopefully 're-narrow the river in an efficient way' and hold strong against high tides and the winter. (Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association)

Several watersheds are hard at work this summer reinforcing rivers in central P.E.I.

The Bedeque Bay watershed and Central Queens Wildlife Federation have moved thousands of pounds of wood and rock over water and through the thicket to install deflectors in their streams.

Christopher Newell, a co-ordinator with the Bedeque Bay watershed, said roughly 10 years ago a dam in the area burst and "probably 100 years worth of sediment washed downstream and settled in the estuary."

Efforts to restore the waterway have been going on ever since, the latest being the installation of flow deflectors in the Dunk River. The deflectors can be found in several "abnormally widened" sections of the river; they're 80 feet in length and stretch across the water like a pier.

Newell and others hope these structures, which are made of wood, stone and rebar, will help concentrate the flow of the stream, thereby deepening the river and allowing the banks to once again flourish with vegetation and marshland.

"We're trying to re-narrow the river in an efficient way. That'll help focus the channel where it should be and dig it down deeper," Newell said.

"The flow now runs along the edge of the structure and it carves a small pool off the tip of the structure and it's helping to correct the stream to where it should be, or where it historically was I should say."

Huge benefit to marshland

Officials with the watershed installed a smaller deflector two years ago higher up in the system that's helped deepen the river, and return vegetation to the banks and land flanking it.

Sometimes the best way to move wood to where you need it to be is to float it downstream, Chris Newell says. (Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association)

"It's completely grassed out, it built a beautiful bank behind it. We're starting to see the marshland that's in the area start to creep out farther, which is fantastic," Newell said.

"That will really help with a lot of migratory birds species that rely on marshland for nesting habitat."

Newell said he hopes the two deflectors they're working on this summer will do the very same, and that the heavy structures will be a bulwark against high tide and winter freeze.

Rain or shine, crews are out installing the deflectors. (Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association)

"We're really hoping that we can prove the theory we have behind it, that they are going to work and have a long-term lasting effect."

The first deflector is already finished, it just needs a bit more armouring to protect it, Newell said. The second is more than halfway complete.

The Dunk River, he added, is also home to migrating Atlantic salmon as well as trout, and by making the channel deeper these fish should find it easier to navigate through the waters.

Work in the West River

Similar work is happening in the West River, with cone-shaped deflectors that will serve as a layover for fish.

Jordan Condon, project co-ordinator for the Central Queens Wildlife Federation, said the group is working on two flow deflectors in the river that'll help migrating fish transition more easily from salt water to the Island's freshwater streams.

Jordan Condon says they've moved over 60 tonnes of rock to construct the deflectors. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The deflector provides a space at its tip that acts like a 40-foot "holding pool" along the river, he said, that'll provide "a deepwater area for the fish to hold in as they adjust from salt water to freshwater."

When the group started their work the water was about thigh deep, Condon said. Now it's up to the top of the chest waders.

"With each spring flood it'll get deeper and deeper as you get that high-water event," he said. "You need that high water to flush out that rock and sediment."

They've moved over 60 tonnes of rock to construct the deflectors, he said, which he hopes to have complete in the weeks to come.

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About the Author

Cody MacKay

Web Writer

Cody hails from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, and is a UPEI History and Carleton Masters of Journalism alum. He joined CBC P.E.I. in July, 2017. Reach him at cody.mackay@cbc.ca

With files from Brian Higgins

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