Letters to the Editor

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Community River Tour documents critical water issues along St. John River

FREDERICTON - Today, CCNB, WWF-Canada and Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) released “Making Connections on the St. John River” – a summary report of the community River Tour.

The River Tour, a joint effort by CCNB, WWF and CRI, aimed to connect with local communities and exchange ideas on how to improve the environmental health of the St. John River and the communities that depend on it for water supply, recreation and economic activity.  Stops were made from November 14-23 2011 in Hammond River, Gagetown, Fredericton, St. Mary’s First Nation, Tobique First Nation, Woodstock, Florenceville-Bristol and Edmundston.

The report provides a snapshot of community conversations describing local issues, challenges and broader water policy discussions.  The report also summarizes the potential opportunities and solutions offered by participants with ideas for creating a more connected network to bring about positive changes on the river.

“While each community in different reaches of the river have their own local issues and challenges, a number of commonalities emerged”, says Dr. Allen Curry, co-sponsor of the Tour and Director of CRI at the University of New Brunswick.   

Through the Tour, it was discovered that people up and down the river all agree on the need to restore fish populations - particularly salmon - as well as restore natural flows, mitigate shoreline erosion and address the nutrient inputs into the river.  

Dr. Curry states that these common priorities are encouraging since they reinforce much of the science laid out in the CRI’s previously released State of the Environment Report (include link) of the St. John River.

Stephanie Merrill, Director of the Freshwater Protection Program at CCNB Action, says the report also highlights some of the bigger, broader water policy challenges that communities feel are impeding the progress toward a healthier river. 

The report outlines frustrations about increasing the need for scientific data collection, effectively sharing information and having science incorporated into decision making processes. There was also a common concern that there is an ineffectiveness of the regulations to protect the water resources.

“There are many groups along the river doing amazing work which many feel could be better incorporated into government decisions that affect the river”, says Merrill.  “We also heard overwhelming sentiment that we face challenges in enforcing our current regulations, like completely cutting the vegetation along the shoreline, for example.”

“The good news is that there is clear support for gearing up and focusing collective efforts to improve the health of the St. John River,” says Tony Maas, Director of the Freshwater Program at WWF.  He also says that WWF has identified the St. John River as a focal river as part of its national Living Rivers Campaign.  

“With the interest and good work that is already being done, along with resources WWF can bring, there is tremendous opportunity to really tackle the issues and challenges that were identified through this Tour,” says Maas. 

“While our work is national in scope, solutions to water issues are inherently local. So what we gathered on this Tour, from the communities who know and love the river, will be critical to WWF’s work in the St. John River.”

You can download the full report here