Environment featured

A river must run through it — Twinning the 101 and the Windsor Causeway

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A group of environmental activists in the Annapolis Valley is calling for a radical rethink of the Avon River causeway in Windsor. Endangered salmon cannot enter the Avon River to spawn and the group has launched a letter writing campaign to call on the federal Department of Fisheries to interfere.  

The Windsor Causeway, with the Minas Basin on the right. Silt buildup after the causeway construction represents an additional threat to habitat. Photo Halifax Examiner

The clock is ticking, say the Save the Avon River! group. The government recently announced its intention to twin the highway from Three Mile Plains to Falmouth, which includes the Windsor causeway. If the lack of access for salmon isn’t addressed now, it will likely never happen.

Avon RIver tributaries like the St. Croix , Kennetcook and Cogmagun Rivers (also salmon producing rivers) are being stressed by the same barrage barrier.

Sonja Wood, spokesperson for the Friends of the Avon River, calls the causeway “one of the largest man-made disasters in Canada.” When the causeway was built in the sixties, no fish passage was included and no substantial environmental studies occurred,” Wood says. As a consequence migrating salmon are no longer able to swim upriver to spawn and other species such as American Eel are also blocked.

Wood is referring to the Inner Bay of Fundy salmon —the same endangered species that Mi’kmaq land defenders and their allies fear will be further put at risk as a result of the Alton Gas brine release into the Shubenacadie River.

In the mid 1980s when the regional salmon population was healthy, close to 40,000 adult salmon returned to spawn in the many rivers of the upper Bay of Fundy. That number declined to about 200 in 2008, DFO reports.

Wood, who has been a vocal proponent of twinning the stretch of the No.101 Highway after suffering a 1985 accident there, is critical of both federal and provincial governments’ reluctance to protect  wildlife and habitat around the causeway.

“(Premier) Stephen McNeil is pushing things through, in concert with the department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal,” says Wood. A recently announced provincial Environmental Assessment does not address the issue, she says.

So why the reluctance? Wood explains that opening up the river to the Bay of Fundy would likely necessitate the replacement of historic Acadian dikes all along the freshwater side of river, dikes which were removed when the causeway was constructed. And that’s expensive.

To make her point that it’s not too late and that fish gates work Wood points to another river that flows into the Bay of Fundy.

In 2010 a fish gate was constructed in the Pettitcodiac River in New Brunswick so that previously blocked salmon and striped bass regained the access to the river they had lost when that causeway was constructed in 1968. Since the gates were opened scientists have observed signs of a comeback of the species.

Wood is asking that people contact federal Fisheries minister Dominic Leblanc (Telephone: 613-993-0999, email: info@dfo-mpo.gc.ca). Protection of the Bay of Fundy salmon is a federal responsibility. You are also asked to submit comments in response to the provincial Environmental Assessment prior to June 7. 

Follow the Save the Avon River group on Facebook.

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  1. Twinning the 101 in Windsor could be a challenge. But going around on the western side of the town would probably save some headache and a lot of money.

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