RIVERSIDE HEIGHTS — Johnstown’s displaced fish have a new home downriver.
In dollars, the construction of the Port of Johnstown’s new marine terminal cost about $35-million. But that industrial project also exacted an environmental cost on fish habitat at the St. Lawrence River site just outside Prescott.
As a condition of project approval through the federal Fisheries Act, the developers built replacement habitat 40 km to the east, carved out of a reedy riverbank area opposite Riverside Heights in the Municipality of South Dundas. This “embayment” initiative was undergoing finishing touches — the planting of trees on levelled-out river mud placed on shore — when officials celebrated the occasion at the site July 22.
The mayor of Edwardsburgh/Cardinal, whose municipality owns the Port, enthusiastically acknowledged the event as a milestone conclusion for the broader terminal project, which began in 2007. “This will actually be the last formal ceremony winding up the project,” said Pat Sayeau, adding the federal and provincial governments released their final $3-million contribution toward the completed terminal expansion just a day earlier.
Similarly funded by both senior governments in partnership with the Port, the embayment work cost $400,000 and was the last of three remediation projects intended to compensate for fish habitat sacrificed to accommodate the Port’s new wharf, according to Sayeau.
Located on lands owned by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, the initiative was overseen by South Nation Conservation and also involved the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne as an environmental partner.
Between October and December 2014 — a time of lower water levels in Lake St. Lawrence — an excavator dug a series of channels — 10 meters wide and 1.2 meters deep — through a large area of cattails.
Mandated monitoring of the site has turned up 20 species of fish in the resulting 22,000-square-meter habit: large and smallmouth bass, longnose gar, walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, brown bullhead, white sucker, bowfin and carp.
In the video above, Township of Edwardsburgh/Cardinal Mayor Pat Sayeau makes a foray July 22 into the neighbouring Municipality of South Dundas to celebrate a completed “embayment” project undertaken to re-mediate fish habitat losses at the Port of Johnstown, which is owned by Sayeau’s township. South Nation Conservation past president Bill Smirle also addresses the press conference.