PARRSBORO - Low water levels in the aboiteau have attracted concern from many here in recent years, from none more so than Randy Corcoran.
Corcoran, who has operated a business on the aboiteau in the past and has been a dedicated volunteer working on projects such as the fishway at the aboiteau gate, said the obvious permanent solution is to replace the aging bridge and gate structure. But he also pointed to a temporary solution that he said has been used in previous years.
"They used to put a big bank of clay in right there every couple of years, and it filled all the cracks," said Corcoran, pointing to the water next to the channel on the aboiteau side of the bridge. "They stopped doing that. That's a temporary solution, but that's how they kept the water in."
Installed around the 1950s, the bridge has been in a deteriorating condition for decades. Not only does water leak through cracks in the gates, but it leaks under the gates as well. The area once full of water for recreational fishing and boating has been reduced to a muddy eyesore in recent years.
Corcoran suggested the town should resume the practice of plugging the cracks with clay, which he said they stopped about 10 years ago. If they need agreements with the provincial department of environment, he said that should be pursued.
Otherwise, he said the recreational fishery there is all but dead, as is all the work that has been done to stock the aboiteau with fish in the 1990s, and all the work done on the fishway to allow salmon and sea trout to move in and out.
"All the work we did is being washed out to sea, and no one's doing anything about it," said Corcoran. "It's all talk, and I'm tired of talking."
The town is working with the provincial and federal governments on a solution that would see the bridge replaced, according to CAO Ray Hickey, who pointed out that the bridge is owned by the province and is therefore a provincial responsibility.
"The structure is not going to fall apart, but it's getting there," said Hickey. "It's approaching the point where it's going to be unsafe to drive over, and it's definitely no longer performing the function of keeping the water in so there's a healthy fish habitat. That aspect of it has already failed, and the road side of it is not much longer for this world."
The town already has plans to install a new sewer line to that area of town, and in the process will have to repave over the bridge, according to Hickey, who said it would make sense to have the bridge replaced at the same time. For this project they are seeking co-operation from the provincial and federal levels of government, as the province owns the bridge and the federal government would be overseeing the sewer work.
"There's no point in us putting a sewer line through and paving it, and then ripping it up to put a bridge in," said Hickey. "We want it to be all done at the same time."
As for Corcoran's temporary solution of packing clay around the bridge, Hickey said town staff will not be doing that because it is not a municipal responsibility.
"It's not our role," he said. "As a municipal government, we're supposed to handle the services for townsfolk. We're not supposed to touch environmental issues or waterways or fish habitats, and we're not supposed to touch that bridge because it's a provincial structure."
As for the fish habitat, there soon won't be anything left to protect, according to Corcoran, who pointed out most of the grasses that grew in the aboiteau have already died.
"Way up by the fire hall there's some grasses left, but that's about it," he said. "That means there's no hiding spots for the fish and no food for them. Also, when the water gets too low and a certain temperature, the fish start to get in trouble because of oxygen deprivation."
Regardless of jurisdiction, Hickey said town hall has received numerous complaints about the aboiteau and its low water level. He said the town wants it fixed just as much as everyone else does.
"It's a provincial responsibility but it bridges two halves of our town, so it's huge for us, and we need people to have access to get across," he said. "We don't have any control over fixing it, but we do get a lot of complaints. People want it full of water and we do too."