A picture of the main river that runs through Kathmandu (the Bagmati) in Nepal. Yikes! Your work is preventing the Sackville River from ever becoming so degraded!
Dinner Auction 2012
Municipal Planning and the Conservation of the Sackville River
The Sackville River runs through three Municipalities; East Hants, Halifax and the town of Bedford. Any conservation program developed for this river must therefore have the support of all of these administrations as well as the support of the relevant provincial and federal government departments, such as the Environment, Fisheries and Municipal Affairs. But above all, it must have the support of the citizens and residents of the communities through which the River, or its associated lakes flows through.
Without some overall strategy for the preservation of the Sackville River, development is likely to take place in such a manner that the water quality will inevitably deteriorate, as has already been evidenced in the Little Sackville River. Loss of the natural filtering capability of the adjacent wetlands and the acceleration of runoff, as ground cover and forested areas are reduced, will increase the probability of seasonal flooding in the lower (presently more densely inhabited) reaches of the River and increase sedimentation and contamination of the water. This loss of water quality will, in turn, result in a reduction, or loss of fish stocks, especially salmon and trout, as is already evident. It is, however, not too late to re-address some of the damage which has already occurred and it is certainly the right time to develop a plan for the long-term conservation of the River so that its usefulness, value and full potential for the benefit of the citizens of our communities is realized.
Although the focus is on what can reasonably be achieved now, and short-term goals have been already established to rejuvenate some relatively small sections of the River, an overall plan for development and conservation in the watershed is essential if options which exist today are not squandered through lack of vision, or ignorance of the consequences of certain courses of action. For example, indiscriminate development of wetlands and floodplains could result in serious seasonal flooding in communities in the lower reaches of the River. Recreational, heritage and tourist possibilities may be irrevocably lost, to the detriment all of the communities within the watershed and particularly to landowners adjacent to the river.
Conservation Strategy and Actions
Before developing a conservation program, the objectives need to be defined. Attached to this paper are the objectives developed by the Main Sackville River Conservation Committee, an ad hoc citizens and experts group which addressed this issue during the later part of 1988. Also attached are the goals of the Sackville Rivers Association and some recommendations on conservation strategies which could apply to the Sackville River (which were provided to the Halifax County Municipal Planning Strategy Review Committee earlier this month). The Sackville Rivers Association has already taken some corrective measures regarding the restoration of some sections of the River. The Bedford Waters Advisory Committee BWAC, which reports to the Bedford Council has also inaugurated a clean up policy and commenced action.
Criteria for Conservation
The level of conservation depends on the purpose to which the river is put. FOr example if the primary concern is to have water suitable for canoeing then, provided the depth is adequate and there are no major obstacles, it would not matter if the water were heavily sediment laden or devoid of fish, or even, for that matter, if it were contaminated. If, however, the intention is to swim in the water, then a higher degree of water quality would be required, even higher quality criteria would apply if the water were to be used for drinking purposes (such as Pockwock Lake).
The “bottom line” for the Sackville River has been determined to be that the waters should be restored to, and maintained at a quality level which will support the salmon, their spawning and the survival of their young. Such a standard would not, of course, preclude the use of the river for other activities which require a lower quality standard, such as canoeing, or even swimming, provided these activities do not detract from the ability of the river to support the fish stocks.
Some financial support toward the restoration of the River to this standard has already been received from the Federal Department of Fisheries and there is a high probability of additional assistance. Environment Canada also provided support by way of funding for publicity during Environment week last year. Provincial support through the adopt a stream program has also been offered, but the major support in terms of participation will have to come from the communities which border the river and which stand to benefit most from its restoration and conservation. Municipality support is essential if this is to be achieved.
What can the Municipalities do?
The Municipalities of East Hants, Halifax and Bedford can do a number of things which can facilitate the conservation of The Sackville River (and which, coincidentally, could protect other water bodies in their jurisdiction).
These could include:
1. Incorporate a conservation strategy for the Sackville River in their Municipal Planning Strategy.
2. Adopt appropriate criteria which will preserve an effective buffer zone around all water courses and the Sackville Rivers in particular.
3. Preserve all essential wetlands and flood plains in their jurisdiction so that water quality is maintained and run off is controlled.
4. Pass appropriate by-laws which will protect the watershed of the Rivers and control development.
5. Require and enforce acceptable environmental controls on all activities, domestic, industrial, developmental, governmental, recreational or other which may take place in the watershed.
6. Develop, support and promote an overall plan for the conservation of the environmental quality and heritage aspects of the Sackville River.
7. Liaise and cooperate with other municipalities, federal and provincial governments, citizens committees and communities concerned in the effecting of a long-term action plan.
Immediate action is required to incorporate a conservation strategy in each of the Municipal Planning strategies of the three municipalities which together govern the management of the Sackville River watershed.
A mechanism for inter municipality, inter governmental, industrial, developmental, and community cooperation and involvement is needed to steer and advise in the development and implementation of an integrated action plan.
To this end, we pledge our support and trust that this submission contributes to the development of a comprehensive plan for the conservation of the Sackville River for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations of Nova Scotian’s and the residents of our communities in particular.