1 – 3 Interns with the Sackville River’s Association at the Stoneybrook site off of Millwood Drive in Middle Sackville. The plan is to get water flowing again to improve the health of the whole watershed. (Colin Chisholm)
Phil Brownell is one of the Sackville River Association’s interns hard at work at the Stoneybrook site off of Millwood Drive in Sackville. Shovel in hand, Brownell and his team tries to rebuild a stream after years of development have turned the area into an overflowed still-water pond.
“Before we got here, the water would come out of the culverts and just spread out, creating a wide, shallow area,” Brownell said, pointing at the muddy work area. “We’ve dug up as much as we can to make it deeper and created a channel here. The rock walls slow the water down, so the fish can get up through this fast moving water.”
Stoneybrook is one of the smaller estuaries that feed into the Little Sackville River, which then flows into the Sackville River. Returning it to its formal glory won’t be easy, but the team has already seen some results.
“We’ve seen fish start to move up, and we saw a Blue Heron hanging out here one morning picking them out of the water, and birds are here bathing in the stream,” he said. “Even in the last couple of days we’ve seen things happen here that haven’t happened in at least 10 years.”
The estuary was primary brown with the small team working away, once it settles the area will be ideal for species like Gaspereau, eel and of course Wild Atlantic Salmon, the SRA’s bread and butter.
“It really puts in perspective the environmental problems we’ve created as a society,” he said. “It’s just good to know that we have the knowledge to bring it back to the way it should be.”
The Sackville River’s Association relies on summer internship programs to carry out the bulk of their labour-intensive projects.
Damon Conrad, Coordinator with the SRA said they get these grants from the provincial and federal governments, as well as Clean Nova Scotia, a non-profit environmental organization.
“The provincial program pays up to $8.50 and hour, we top them up to $12,” Conrad said. “The federal program pays minimum wage and we top them up to $12 as well.”
The Clean Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps makes minimum wage, $10.15 an hour.
“Most of the interns are in or interested in science programs like biology, environmental science, marine engineering, things like that,” he said. “We also hired students with a co-op program through Acadia.
“They spend most of their time actually out in the field,” he added. “Doing water quality tests across various parts of the watershed. For the most part they’re in the river, clearing debris, installing structures.”
Walter Regan, Executive Director of the SRA said the internship subsidies are a major boost to the organization.
“This is really valuable to us as an affordable source of labour,” Regan said at the SRA’s office inside the Sackville Heights Community Centre. “It’s also invaluable for the students themselves, because they get hands-on experience for their resume and learning about what it’s like in the field.”
“Unfortunately, due to the provincial and federal cuts, the program has been scaled way back and the province has passed some of it onto Clean Nova Scotia,” he said. “This year Clean Nova Scotia hired around 50 students, of which, we got two.”
Regan noted the conservation corps through Clean NS used to hire over 200 summer interns, but recent cutbacks have scaled the program back. The federal government’s recent scrapping of the Katimavik program also lowered the number of students the SRA could hire to support their projects.
“These students fill a massive void in our operations,” he said. “They bring good backs, enthusiasm for what they do and the necessary training and computer skills. We need them.”
Another thing the Sackville River’s Association is always looking out for is volunteers. For more information, check out www.sackvillerivers.ns.ca.
Herald Community Writer