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Century old dam in Marysville will be removed to restore fish passageway

The dam has made it difficult for migratory species to travel from the creek to the Nashwaak River

A century-old dam used to service a former cotton mill in Marysville will be removed to restore a fish passage in a stream that flows into the Nashwaak River.

The dam, which is owned by the City of Fredericton, sits at the mouth of Campbell Creek and has made it impossible for migratory species to travel through. This includes Atlantic salmon, which have been stuck below the dam in Campbell Creek since the facility was built.

“This is an important reason to take out the dam, as salmon is of course a species at risk,” said Jillian Hudgins, project co-coordinator for the Nashwaak Watershed Association.

Another species having difficulty is the American eel, which sometimes crawls up a water bank and slides to the other side of the dam

“Certainly the dam would pose an issue for getting around but they can do it if they want to,” she said.

A little history

The dam was built in 1919 and is made of concrete. It’s about eight metres high and 75 metres long.

Hudgins said the dam was repaired in 1948 but its condition has deteriorated over the last several decades.

“Concrete does have a lifespan. There has been significant cracking of the concrete, which causes seepage of water,” Hudgins said.

“And eventually, if that’s left in place, the dam could fail, causing flooding downstream or cause flooding to adjacent land owners’ properties.”

In 2014, the dam was evaluated under an engineering assessment, which deemed it structurally unsafe and a public safety liability. The assessment advised that the dam needed to be demolished and for stream restoration to take place.

Restoring an ecosystem

The project is being handled by The Maliseet Nation Conservation Council, Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick, St. Mary’s First Nation, environmental groups and the City of Fredericton.

The four-phase project started in 2019 to perform environmental assessments and find project funding. This year will focus on community engagement. Then, the dam is expected to be removed next year.

The project will be completed in 2022 with partners planting native trees, grasses, shrubs and stabilizing soils in the former head pond to restore the ecosystem to what it was.

Hudgins also noted Campbell Creek holds “high quality cold-water” habitat for these at-risk species.

“This is a cold water stream,” she said. “It’s one of the first that fish would encounter on their way up to the Nashwaak, so it’s really important that it’s accessible for fish.”

Kaleb Zelman, project lead for the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council, said he’s hopeful this is the beginning of many dam removals to help improve ecosystems and the life of different species.

“This is simply one of many dam removals starting to take place across the country and across North America after we realize the longer-term impacts of putting these structures in,” he said.

One of the examples is the removal of dams in communities throughout Maine, which has restored native fish like alewives.

The groups will hold an information session with St. Mary’s First Nation on July 22. On July 23, they will host a public session through an online webinar hosted by the Nashwaak Watershed Association.

A heritage display will also be created in the town of Marysville.