About the Lime Doser on West River
Just add lime: A recipe that tripled river's salmonfrom: The Chronicle-Herald 06/17/10
By JOHN McPHEE Environment Reporter
Salmon groups may have landed a way to save the province's endangered sport fish. The Atlantic salmon population has tripled in the West River since a restoration project began. For the past five years, the Eastern Shore river has been dosed with lime to reduce the harmful effects of acid rain.
The success of the project, the first of its kind in North America, has surprised the Nova Scotia Salmon Association. About 10,000 young salmon were counted this spring, compared with about 3,300 before liming began.
"The results are incredible," said George Ferguson, an association member who operates the West River lime doser remotely from his home in Beaver Bank. Industrial pollution in the form of acid rain has made rivers across the world uninhabitable for insects and other salmon food. As a result, the salmon population has plummeted since the 1970s.
After Fisheries and Oceans Canada cancelled its salmon stocking program in 1996, the salmon association and the Atlantic Salmon Federation brought in an expert from Norway to find other ways of boosting the salmon population. The lime-dosing pilot project came out of the expert's report, Ferguson said in an interview Wednesday.
The groups held fundraisers and pooled their resources to buy a $160,000 lime doser from Norway, a leader in the technology. They also paid about $100,000 to install power lines and upgrade roads at the West River site, Ferguson said.
He described the lime doser as similar to a barn silo, standing about 12-metres high. A computer program allows Ferguson to monitor the operation from 115 kilometres away. "I can control the lime dosage, and the machine will actually call me if there's a problem or if it runs out of lime." The groups got some unexpected help from the landowner, Northern Pulp. The company saved the project about $25,000 by clearing the land and helping with other site preparation work. "They were great," said Ferguson, who sits on Northern Pulp's sustainable forestry public advisory committee.
Don Breen of Northern Pulp said the company was happy to help. "We felt it was a good way to work with a non-governmental organization, and we just thought it was something we could do to help them out," Breen said Wednesday. The next step is convincing the government to spend millions to expand the program, Ferguson said. Salmon populations are threatened in about 65 Nova Scotia rivers in the area known as the southern uplands.
"If you drew a line from Digby to Canso, every river south of that is acid-stressed." The salmon groups plan to lobby Fisheries and Oceans as well as Environment Canada to put dosers on these rivers.
"The results we have show that we control the effects of acid rain in our rivers," Ferguson said. "If we don't do anything, the salmon are going to disappear and never come back."