Local conservation efforts improve conditions for returning fish
Danny Ripley looks over one of the Cumberland County River Enhancement Associations projects on Second River in Williamsdale. The association has rebuilt the salmon habitat to allow them to spawn on the river.
River Philip - Its a long swim home but salmon are returning to many Nova Scotia rivers this year.
A rainy summer has helped raise water levels and created almost perfect conditions for salmon, according to local enthusiasts.
Danny Ripley, project manager and biologist for the Cumberland County River Enhancement Association, has been involved in several projects to rebuild salmon habitat throughout the countys waterways.
Ripley said the high water level makes it harder to get work done on fish habitats, but it has been a good year.
Its a problem Ill take, he said.
One of the projects Ripley worked on was a fish ladder cut into the rock on a section of Davison Brook in 2006.
The group cut steps into the rock to form pools to make it easier for the fish to jump upstream.
The goal was to keep costs down and have the ladder blend in with the surrounding habitat, he said.
We were trying to keep it as natural as possible.
Fish hadnt been spawning regularly above the ladder for over 50-60 years because of the high rocks, but Ripley said the ladder opened up over 34 square kilometres of water and salmon have used it every year since.
It was immediate.
Ripley said the conservation work is hard but its gratifying to see it paying off.
Its probably the biggest reward of all.
Another of the groups successful projects was the removal of a Department of Fisheries and Oceans hatchery dam on Second River in Williamsdale.
Built to create a pond for the hatchery, the dam blocked a large part of the river and kept salmon out of the section above it for about five years after the hatchery closed.
Ripley said the dam was an obvious problem but in some cases there is the risk of recurring problems that arent as easy to solve.
The problem isnt always as clear cut.
The river now flows freely between the thick walls of whats left of the dam and there is no evidence of the old pond, thanks to the groups efforts.
It took some pushing to get DFO to open the river but eventually they agreed, he said.
Doing this stuff youve gotta have some persistence, I guess.
Ripley said they havent done a fish count yet, but he estimated there are now close to 30 pairs of salmon that spawn on the river.
Before 2004 it was zero.
Despite the progress the group has made, Ripley said people sometimes complain the association only helps salmon, but they dont realize well planned projects help other fish too.
A lot of times we use salmon as a flagship thing.
Ripley said a new grant from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation will help the association sustain their efforts and continually plan more improvements.
It allows us to maintain an annual presence.