Text: Nathalie Landry, Petitcodiac Riverkeeper
Editing: Monique Arsenault
Photos: Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, Charles LeGresley, Georges Brun
For many years, Petitcodiac Riverkeeper had led research and put pressure on the City of Moncton to remove an abandoned dam on Humphreys Brook.
As you may know, Humphreys Brook, located in eastern Moncton, is part of the Halls Creek sub-watershed, which is part of the larger Petitcodiac River catchment basin (2071 km2). While this important freshwater stream helps sustain our region’s biodiversity by providing habitat to various species of fish, amphibians, aquatic plants, invertebrates, and microorganisms, it also is an essential supply of water and food for many types of animals.
A 4.7-metre high, 9.1-metre-long dam was built at the turn of the past century to generate power for Humphreys Mill, which now sits idle (underneath the old Mill Road Bridge in Moncton). The dam had served no economic or social purpose since the early 1970s; the mill operation had long since been closed, and the headpond was filled with sediment and debris. Based on Micmac oral tradition and the fact that even smaller neighbouring tributaries of the Petitcodiac River watershed historically sustained Atlantic Salmon runs, we assumed that Humphreys Brook had sustained an Atlantic Salmon run before the dam was built.
When the City of Moncton decided to remove the abandoned dam in 2013, it allowed Humphreys Brook to reclaim its natural flow. Decommissioning the dam, along with phase one of the project, took place over the spring and summer months, reinstating fish passage in more than 9 km of good quality fish habitat in our region.
To begin the restoration project, an assessment of the restoration and planting sites was conducted. A list of native tree species to be planted was created and the quantities of trees were estimated based on the area to be re-vegetated. Many photographs of debris and erosion were taken to evaluate the work that needed to be completed. Given obvious signs of erosion present, soil bioengineering and biotechnical slope stabilization methods were planned.
Following the primary restoration plan, potential for hazards and exposure risks were assessed, considering the location where the work was to be carried out. Location maps were obtained and signed approvals and letters of consent were secured from property owners. A Watercourse and Wetland Alteration Permit from New Brunswick’s Department of Environment was obtained.
Partnerships with the city, local businesses, schools, collaborators and volunteers were developed. Agreements with restoration specialists and contractors were signed, and tree seedlings and live cuttings were ordered.
Phase two of the project thus started in the fall of 2013 and included removing tons of debris and blockages such as wood planks, tires, pieces of metal, concrete and garbage from the brook and its banks. Banks were be stabilized and restored by planting native species of woody vegetation. Biotechnical slope stabilization structures were also constructed in areas of severe runoff and erosion.
The success of this project is already visible today. It will be interesting to see the changes over the years when the trees have grown, erosion problems have become unnoticeable and the water runs free once again. Our vision for Humphreys Brook is that it becomes a healthy habitat for all fish, animals and people to enjoy in the urban center of Moncton.
We hope you enjoy the following images from this important restoration project. We are most grateful to our partners and the community for their continued support of our work.
Here we can see some before and after pictures of the Humphreys Brook dam site before, during and after demolition of the dam. The City of Moncton removed the dam in August 2013.
Lots of debris (wood planks, tires and concrete pipes) could be seen in the water and along the banks of Humphreys Brook prior to the restoration project.
One of the partners in the project, Tri-Province Enterprises, was brought in along with its heavy machinery to remove debris from the brook. Along 500 metres of the stream, over 20,000 lbs of debris were removed, weighed and disposed.
Incredible to think that all of that was in the brook. It is now all gone!
Run-off and soil erosion areas before the restoration project began.
Petitcodiac Riverkeeper volunteers in action! Here we see the construction of biotechnical slope stabilization structures. Structures were constructed using Willow and Red Osier Dogwood cuttings.
Erosion control after slope stabilization structures construction.
Humpreys Brooks banks before revegetation.
More than 1,700 native tree species were planted on the banks. They include: White Birch, Yellow Birch, Silver Maple, White Elm, White Pine, Red Spruce, Balsam Fir, Serviceberry, Balsam Poplar, Red Osier Dogwood, Willow, Trembling Aspen, Hawthorn, Meadowsweet, Common Elderberry and Choke Cherry.
One of the best parts of the project was the many public outreach activities. Here, we see small trees being planted with the help of students from École Champlain.
Stream banks after revegetation.
This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada, the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation, the RBC Blue Water Project, the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment/Gulf of Maine Association, Tri-Province Enterprises, Encorp Atlantic and the City of Moncton.