By Tina Comeau
Two years of effort has materialized in work that has been carried out to preserve a fresh water wetland in Melbourne, Yarmouth County.
Ducks Unlimited Canada is behind the project, taking place adjacent to the William Allen Road in Melbourne. The work has involved the replacement of two structures that help to control the level and flow of water. One is a water control structure that helps to create a fresh water wetland on one side of the road, the other is a tide/flood gate that controls the saltwater marsh on the other side the road.
The tender was awarded to R&D Harris Excavating Ltd, which has been carrying out the work.
Last week Robert Fraser, a Ducks Unlimited wetland asset manager for Atlantic Canada, said the water control structure that holds the fresh water marsh to a certain level has deteriorated since first being installed in the 1980s and needed to be replaced.
Large sandbags were placed on both sides of the marsh to create a temporary dam to allow the work to take place.
It had taken some time to reach this stage.
“Basically we've been working on this project for a couple of years now to get the land owners re-signed to new agreements, agreements that run for 30 years, and then we’ve been working with the Department of Environment and DFO to get the permits and things in place,” Fraser explained.
A couple of years ago Ducks Unlimited had indicated to area residents that it intended to drain the 24-acre fresh water wetland in Melbourne and return the area to its original saltwater marsh state. At the time Ducks Unlimited said it couldn’t afford to replace the aging water control structure. But because of liability concerns it couldn’t leave it in place either. Had the structure ever failed, thereby washing out the road, Ducks Unlimited said it didn’t have the funding to repair a possible situation that could have left residents stranded.
But the plan to go back to a saltwater marsh didn’t sit well with area residents, who said it would significantly alter the appearance of the area and would displace certain kinds of wildlife.
And so instead Ducks Unlimited has worked with the community to reach a solution. Earlier this year it said it was receiving help from the federal and provincial governments through the Atlantic Habitat Partnership Initiative to help fund the project to replace the aging structures.
Individual landowners re-signed 30-year conservation agreements that allow Ducks Unlimited to manage the structures for another 30 years.
Ducks Unlimited says the level of support from the community for maintaining the fresh water wetland was a big factor in its decision to move forward with the work.