N.S. project battles acid rain, restores salmon population
SHEET HARBOUR, N.S. - Heavy rains in Nova Scotia are causing more than just a wet mess; it's also damaging the wildlife in the region's rivers.
Acid rain has been killing salmon and trout populations in Nova Scotia waters for years, and now a small group of volunteers has created a solution – one they are paying for themselves.
Under the West River Sheet Harbour Project, fine particles of lime are continuously released into the West River, which helps the river maintain its pH – the only solution of its kind in North America.
Volunteers are also able to monitor wildlife in the river, particularly the salmon populations.
Now the West River has a thriving salmon population, despite the fact that it has been battling acid rain for years.
"The increase in salmon production is incredible in the West River," says George Ferguson, volunteer manager of the West River Sheet Harbour Project.
It's the only river in the area with a thriving salmon population and fish biologist Eddie Halfyard has recorded an increase of nearly 400 per cent over the past six years.
"There are more issues facing salmon than just acid rain, but this is a large piece of the puzzle," says Halfyard.
Keeping the West River at an optimal pH adds up. It costs roughly $50,000 each year to maintain and line the water with lime, but it's a project other river associations believe is money well-spent.
"This is not just money being thrown down a river, this is money thrown for good reason to stimulate economic spinoff for our rural areas, plus our cities," says Walter Regan with the Sackville Rivers Association.
Jack MacDonald has been fishing in the West River his whole life – that is, until dwindling numbers put a stop to his fishing activities.
The 80-year-old Sheet Harbour resident hopes the project will allow him to once again fish in the river where he grew up.
"It's going to bring fish back for kids to have the fishing I had," he says. "When the fish come back, people will come back."
Halfyard also hopes this will be the case.
"There is more to this than just salmon," he says. "It is about a healthy ecosystem. It's hope for the future and there's something to be said to getting out there and doing something about it."
The team plans to provide proof of the pilot project's success to the province, before the project ends in 2015, and before the salmon disappear from all rivers in the region.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Felicia Yap