A Second Doser

Jan 29, 2019
West River Sheet Harbour liming project
It was a grand affair on June 30th, complete with a bagpiper and nearly 70 guests who came to celebrate the installation of a second lime doser on the West River Sheet Harbour (WRSH) on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. The guests, who gathered at the Eastern Shore Wildlife Association Clubhouse, were able to visit the new doser site on the Killag River, a tributary of the WRSH, and tour other facets of the project, including the salmon counting fence and in-stream habitat restoration structures. 

Many present fondly recalled a similar celebration held more than 13 years ago—the installation of the first lime doser, on the main branch of West River. With its silo for powdered limestone, equipment to meter out a slurry at the appropriate rate to raise the river’s pH, and associated electronics, it was a first in North America, and the initial phase of a 10-year pilot project. Although a number of supporters and partners chipped in, it was the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA) that largely raised the quarter million dollars needed to purchase the doser, ship it from Norway and install it. Then, the NSSA raised more than that total to keep it operating—a huge endeavour for a volunteer organization.

Dr. Eddie Halfyard, a provincial research scientist who manages the project, credited longtime NSSA director George Ferguson, for his foresight and tenacity in launching the project and shepherding it through its first decade. “All around us, salmon populations continue to decline, and in many cases, salmon populations have become extirpated or locally extinct,” said Halfyard. “In response to the liming here, we have seen a three-fold increase in the production of wild salmon smolts. That is a trend that is not seen elsewhere, it is unique to this region.” 

These positive results have led to more widespread support for the project, allowing for the recent expansion, with federal funding covering most of the cost of the Killag doser. One new approach, used in the last two years, is catchment liming, using helicopters to spread lime across significant areas of the watershed—which also offers benefits to Nova Scotia’s calcium-starved forests. Keith Colwell, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, has become a key supporter, helping to leverage funding and advocating for the use of provincial helicopters for this work.

At the June open house, Colwell acknowledged many of the individuals who have contributed to the project, as well as various levels of government and companies that have provided support. He praised the scientific and technological innovation behind the project, and said he has begun discussions on manufacturing doser equipment in Nova Scotia.

“This project is a model,” he said. “One I feel we can reproduce across the province.”

 —Amy Weston